Dalí Museum takes you on a walk on the wild side

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The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. Dalí is pictured in his own painting holding the cross. (Photo by Rod Charles)

Spend some time with Salvador Dalí and your perspective will change. 

Story by Rod Charles

ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA — Salvador Dalí is a complete, utter eccentric — some might say weirdo — with a mind that is truly suited for the clouds.

Fifteen minutes at the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg is all the time I needed to come to that conclusion. And you know what? That’s why I love him. If anyone is ever critical of you for having your head in the clouds don’t get angry — remind them of the outstanding creative contributions of Salvador Dalí.

If you’ve never heard of this man, get yourself to a Google browser window. One of the most prolific artists of the 20th century with a keen eye for detail and a flamboyant personality, Dalí is remembered for his paintings, printmaking, sculpting, fashion and filmmaking — particularly in his collaborations with Walt Disney, Alfred Hitchcock and Luis Bunuel.

With 68,000 square feet of space, the Dalí Museum contains the largest collection of his work outside of Spain. It features more than 2,000 works comprising nearly 100 oil paintings; over 100 watercolors and drawings; and 1,300 prints, photographs and sculptures. The building itself is a work of art with 1,062 triangular-shaped glass panels — the only structure of its kind in North America. It stands 75 feet at its tallest point, a 21st-century homage to the dome that adorns Dalí’s museum in Spain.

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The staircase at Dalí Museum. (Photo by Rod Charles)

Dali Museum Filled With Delightful Surprises

Upon arrival, I immediately head for the third floor, where some of his most famous pieces of art are on display. One of the most popular pieces in the museum is called — take a deep breath — “Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea Which at Twenty Meters Becomes the Portrait of Abraham Lincoln (Homage to Rothko).”

Up close, it appears to be a picture of a nude woman looking out at the sea, but when you step back or squint, it becomes a picture of US President Abraham Lincoln.

“The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus” is another that grabbed me. Seeing it online is interesting, but standing at 161 1/2 x 122 1/8 inches (13 x 10 feet), this painting fills the entire space of your brain. In it you see a young Christopher Columbus pulling a ship. In the picture is also Dali’s wife, and a picture of the painter himself holding a cross.

Another painting I liked was “The Ecumenical Council,” where Dali turns the Pope’s coronation into a miraculous vision located between Heaven and Earth. Then there’s the “Lobster Telephone.” I could go on and on.

Designed by architect Yann Weymouth of HOK, the Dalí opened in the heart of St. Petersburg on January 11, 2011 with several wonderful features, including a simple rectangle with 18-inch hurricane-proof walls out of which erupts a large free-form geodesic glass bubble known as the “enigma.” Inside, the museum houses another unique architectural feature — a helical staircase — recalling Dalí’s obsession with spirals and the double helical shape of the DNA molecule.

Funny enough, I have to say I also really liked the gift shop. I don’t usually mention gift shops when I review museums because in general they are simply tourist traps designed to get visitors to spend more money. This shop does have some interesting items, though, including several posters, clothing items and my personal favourite — the melting clock ornament.

MORE ABOUT THE DALI MUSEUM

Address: One Dalí Boulevard, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701
Website: TheDalí.org
Phone: 727-823-3767

People in Gallery viewing Toreador

People viewing Toreador in Dalí Museum (©2016 – Salvador Dalí Museum, Inc., St. Petersburg, FL / “The Hallucinogenic Toreador, 1969-70, Oil on canvas. © Salvador Dalí. Fundación Gala-Salvador Dalí, (Artist Rights Society), 2016 / Collection of the Salvador Dalí Museum, Inc., St. Petersburg, FL, 2016.)