Well, hello, Dali
Salvador Dali (1904-1989) was the first artist to become an icon as much for his ability to manipulate the media as for his art. Posing as an eccentric, he was the consummate showman and entertainer in a burgeoning mass-media world. He became the personification of surrealism.
To mark the centenary of his birth, the Dallas Museum of Art has
dusted off its Dali holdings and put them up on the walls. Dali works that
are part of traveling exhibits, such as a major exhibit opening at the
This uneven, circuslike response to
what would have been his 100th birthday would have pleased Dali. He
understood consumerism and was as comfortable with things tacky as he was
with things tasteful. His work was purchased by august museums such as the
Guggenheim, but no one would have been surprised to find him on
Dali was a man of his time. He incorporated visuals of telephones, cars and Freudian dream interpretations into his work. Even though his imagery was often quite violent and sexually aberrant, he was beloved by the public.
"He had this tremendous skill. He painted whatever he wanted with ease. Even if you don't like the dripping watch or naked woman, you can at least admire the way he conveyed it," says Michael Taylor, associate curator and acting head of modern and contemporary art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Dali's standing within hallowed museum walls has always been
inconsistent. Even during surrealism's heyday in the 1920s and '30s, his
fellow painters expelled him from their ranks. They felt he was too
apolitical. "They wanted a Marxist revolution; Dali wanted a personal
Dali was making a name for himself in
Dali found a great buffet of opportunities in
He dared to break the barrier between high art and commercialism, doing whatever beguiled him. To the horror of the elitists, and to his amusement, he treated art like a product.
Dali stayed in the
His increasing use of buffoonery to stay in the public eye caused much of his late work to be dismissed, which is unfortunate, because it had a strong impact on emerging artists of the 1960s and 1970s such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.
During his last two decades he revisited his famous images and themes, incorporating references to new scientific discoveries such as DNA. He anticipated self-tanning sprays and thought that someday we would all communicate by telepathy.
He addressed his own mortality and his living-large philosophy in The Unspeakable Confessions of Salvador Dali, published in 1973.
"I have been living with death ever since I became aware I was breathing, it has been killing me with a cold voluptuousness exceeded only by my lucid passion to outlive myself at every minute, every infinitesimal second of my consciousness of being alive. The continual, stubborn, savage, terrible tension is the whole story of my quest."
Dali on display
"Dali 100 Years"
Through June 27
1300 Gendy (corner of Lancaster and Montgomery streets)
At the invitation of the
Dali works don't come cheap. Beginning prices for Dali lithographs are $1,950. One-of-a-kind oil paintings, water colors and drawings are considerably higher. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the cultural center.