Visual Arts: A Salvador Dali Day Trip


Salvador Dali's "The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus"

If you're thinking of an artful day trip, consider a drive to the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg. Built in 2010, the museum is still brand-spanking-new — an inspired design, courtesy HOK Florida. The structure is a blend of rectilinear concrete elements and an eccentrically curved geodesic dome — not exactly spherical, as if it had melted like one of Dali's watches. The museum's design is basically circular, wrapped around a Helical Staircase, which, whimsically, continues to spiral to the ceiling after you've reached the uppermost floor where the cross-section of Dali's mind resides: the museum's permanent collection.

You see the relentless pace of Dali's output. There's a surprising glimpse of his early efforts, a heaping helping of his famous Surreal period, and a goodly sample of his latter, more conventionally religious iconography. You can see his mind at work. And what a mind at was ...

Follow the paintings, and follow the sequence of Dali's artistic development. What emerges is a portrait of the artist as a human Cuisinart.

Dali's mind absorbed artistic styles — pulped and pureed them until they turned into something else. In his earlier work, Dali threw in Pointillism, Impressionism, Cubism. He took those styles apart and put them back together — and moved onto something else. Surrealism, of course. Dali didn't invent Surrealism, but he dominated it. It's easy to forget, he didn't stop there.

Salvador Dali's "Gala Contemplating Lincoln"

Salvador Dali's "Gala Contemplating Lincoln"

Dali returned to religious iconography (without mockery) in the 1950s and '60s. He tossed in elements of popular science, too. Look close, and you'll see references to the DNA molecule, quantum physics, and a digitized image of Lincoln's portrait on the five dollar bill published in Scientific American back in 1973. God or science, it all went into the mix.

Be sure to drink it all in. Ideally, give yourself a day. And drink in the architecture, too.

Appropriately enough, you step into this magical mystery tour of Dali's mind via, you guessed it, the gift shop.

Not to get too commercial, but the ground floor gift shop is a hoot. If you're looking for, say, a (functioning!) melting watch or a t-shirt sporting Dali's "Atmospheric Skull Sodomizing a Grand Piano," you've come to the right place.


A Surrealistic Slideshow!

THE DALÍ MUSEUM. One Dalí Blvd., St. Petersburg. 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, noon to 5:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets $21 with discounts for seniors, military, students and children. (727) 823-3767;
Last modified: January 10, 2013
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