Sunday, December 15, 2013

"A supreme pleasure: that of being Salvador Dalí"

"It is not necessary for the public to know whether I am joking or whether I am serious,
just as it is not necessary for me to know it myself." Salvador Dalí, Diary of a Genius (1964)

"Le Surréalisme, c'est moi."
-- quoted by George Cevasco, Salvador Dali: master of surrealism and modern art (1971)

After two busy days of sightseeing in Barcelona, we decided on a change of pace. We knew we wanted to take a day trip out of the city. It came down to a choice between Montserrat, with its monastery, and Figueres, with Dalí's personally-designed museum and mausoleum. Since Kate and I are fans of Dalí -- we've previously toured the Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, which has several of his masterpieces and holds the largest Dalí collection outside of Europe -- we decided on Figueres. Going to Figueres also was a day trip that would allow us to travel at a leisurely pace and yet still return to Barcelona by mid-afternoon.

As an added bonus for the trip, we got to travel by train, which is Jackson's favorite mode of transportation.

Waiting for our train at the station in downtown Barcelona.
Playing games with Gruffalo cards.
Figueres is Dalí's hometown. The theater is where Dalí first exhibited his paintings, at age 14. It was bombed into ruins during the Spanish Civil War, but in 1960 Dalí got permission from the town's mayor to rebuild it as a museum to himself. In 1974 the museum, billing itself as "the largest surrealistic object in the world," opened to the public. It not only houses the largest collection of Dalí works, but the theater itself and the adjoining buildings were designed, decorated, and painted to showcase his art. Dalí died in 1989, and he is buried in a crypt in the basement.

As you might expect, Surrealism dominates the museum. He rejected the idea of following a preconceived route through his works. There also isn't much in the way of explanatory information about the art. On the upside, there's a cornucopia of delightfully odd and surprising art to discover while wandering freely. On the downside, while there's great variation in the subjects, techniques, and media utilized, it starts to feel a little aimless.

I won't try to explain or interpret the art. Dalí would scoff at such an attempt. But here's some of the good stuff to see:

Dalí's own 1941 Cadillac within the theater.
Figures within the car. If you put a coin into a slot, it rains inside the car.
A foray into Cubism.
Abraham Lincoln. It helps if you squint.
Abe, what round cheeks you have!
One room has a ceiling painting of Dalí and his wife/manager, Gala.
Detail on the ceiling.
Detail on the opposite side.
Jackson's mind is on overload.
If you ascend a staircase and view it through a special lens, this room looks like Mae West -- drapery hair, paintings for eyes, a fireplace nose, and couch for lips.
Portrait of Gala.
Jesus as a zombie?
A caption says "Three Lenins disguised as Chinese" at two meters, and a "Head of a Royal Tiger" at six meters.
A peephole in a room shows this illuminated scene.
Dalí's tomb.
Can you see the figures within it?
Photo taken about two feet away from the painting.
Of all the works in the museum, Jackson was most perturbed by this.

"Every morning upon awakening, I experience a supreme pleasure: that of being Salvador Dalí, and I ask myself, wonderstruck, what prodigious thing will he do today, this Salvador Dalí."

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