New Dali Museum Opens In St. Petersburg

01/11/11 Janelle Irwin
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The new Salvador Dali Museum opened today in downtown St. Petersburg. The new home for one of the largest Dali collections in the world stands as a remarkable tribute to the artist.

Construction on the new Dali museum spanned over 23 months, but today the new building is finally open to the public. Two main focal points make this building particularly unique. The new museum was designed and constructed by the Beck Group. It boasts a glass enigma consisting of thousands of triangular glass panes that face the downtown waterfront. Inside there is a DNA inspired spiral staircase. Construction project manager, Dale Mize, said inspiration for these architectural designs came from Dali’s own ideas.

"That's representative of DNA which Dali was quite familiar with and used in some of his paintings. He was thrilled with the DNA molecule and the scientific application thereof."

The aesthetically dominant glass enigma presented an interesting challenge to builders. Mize said each individual glass pane was constructed and then delivered with a computerized bar code describing the location of the glass within the frame. He compared the construction of this aspect to a jigsaw puzzle.

"It's just the number of pieces, it's like a giant jigsaw puzzle. There's 1,062 different triangle shaped pieces of glass ... no two pieces are alike. The structural system behind it reminds me of a tinkertoy set I had as a kid where the pieces come together. There's over 3,500 different pieces. Each one of those is machined for that particular spot."

The completion of this project marks an important milestone for the community. The Grand Opening coincides with the opening of another Dali museum in Dali’s birth and resting place in Figueres, Spain and will mark the official sistership between the two cities. Director Dr. Hank Hine said this museum is regarded the most important single Spanish art collection in the Americas.

"It's a collection that could never be reassembled. The ambassador of Spain to the United States has said 'This is the most important collection of Spanish art in North or South America.' So you're in a singular, singular place."

Two separate galleries host the many works of Dali. Dali’s artwork is displayed on warm white walls in the Permanent Collection Gallery. This exhibit contains some of Dali’s most famous works including “The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory”. Director Hine described the importance of this piece.

"This is where you see his famous melting clock image however the world is not continuous, it's fragmentary, and he has been influenced by the discovery of subatomic physics and finds in that not despair or confusion but affirmation that the world can be understood and that there is no difference between spirit and matter. So he's really becoming a mystic here. The nuclear mysticism is the appropriate term, one coined by Dali himself for this period of his work."

Dali is known for his artistic ability to create double images in his paintings. This aspect is largely demonstrated in his master work “Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea”. At a distance of 20 meters, the image of Dali’s wife, Gala, becomes the bust of Abraham Lincoln.

"We think of Dali as an artist from way back in the last century. This painting was painted in 1976. It's a double image, it's a portrait of Abraham Lincoln and a study of his wife gazing out of the window. It's called 'Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea' which, at 20 meters, becomes a portrait of Abraham Lincoln, and it's one of my favorites. You'll have to squint or cover your eyes slightly and you'll see that the entire canvas becomes the bust of Lincoln."

Dali’s artwork is known for its complicated and sometimes controversial interpretations. In “Daddy Long Legs of The Evening” Dali demonstrates hope through images that are anything but hopeful.

"It's not a happy scene, there are cannons, there are horses leaping from the cannons. The figure is melting and the head is on the ground. Trees are leafless, the cello cannot play, and at the base the angel weeps. This is the first painting Dali painted in the United States. He stayed in the United States from 1940 to 1948, and then returned for half his year for the rest of his life."

The Special Exhibition Gallery is located just across the hall in a much colder room. The floors are polished concrete that reflect the images of those walking on it and echo the sounds of the room. This Gallery contains works from Dali’s later career. Hine described an action photograph to the laughter of his audience.

"There are also wonderful photo's from the 50's by Philippe Halsman of Dali doing various performance pieces. For instance, this is pre-Photoshop, this image over here where cats are flying through the air, pails of water are being thrown. Those are real cats and real water. You just can't do that anymore, you can't throw cats like these."

The new Dali museum also contains a Children’s Gallery, gift shop, café and outdoor labyrinth. Hours of operation remain the same, but admission prices have increased slightly. Museum officials consider that a small sacrifice to museum goers considering the size of the museum has more than doubled. For more information on the new Dali visit their website.

Previous WMNF coverage of the Dali Museum

Here is a gallery of many photos inside the new Dali museum.

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