ArtSmart Travels/ Dali in Spain by Barbara Rizza Mellin
Spain is less than a two hour’s train ride from Barcelona, but in some ways
it’s like visiting another planet. The town itself is a relatively small
Catalan village, but as the birthplace of Spanish Surrealist artist Salvador
Dali (1904-1989), it attracts countless tourist each year.
husband, Bruce, and I had planned to take a bus tour to Figueres as a one-day
excursion from Barcelona, but the under-subscribed trip was canceled. Since
viewing Dali’s truly unique museum was one of the main reasons for this visit,
we were not to be dissuaded. A quick taxi ride from the hotel landed us at the
train depot, and we were soon back on schedule. As we journeyed to Figueres, I
thought of the two faces associated with Dali: his own playful,
not-to-be-taken-seriously visage with curled handlebar mustache and elfish
grin, and the limp clock faces that seem to melt before us in his famous
painting, The Persistence of Memory at MOMA (the Museum of Modern
Art) in New York City.
self-designed museum, The Teatre-Museu Dali, complete with giant “eggs”
on its roof and “loaves of bread” on the walls, is only about a 15-minute walk
from the train station, but the line, which meandered around the building, down
narrow medieval streets and into an open plaza, took almost two hours before
reaching the entrance. Our long wait turned out to be one of our fondest
memories. In a couple of hours, you get to know the people around you, such as
the French parents who were traveling with their two children and the young
couple from Australia backpacking through Spain. Bruce and I occasionally left
the line (one of us held our space) to buy an ice cream or explore shops along
the way. The Dali-catessen, for example, was a great place to pick up
one-of- kind souvenirs, such as a T-shirt with three clocks posting New York
time, Tokyo Time and Figuere’s Time, the last featuring Dali’s famous “melting”
The museum itself is built on the
site of a war-ruined 19th century municipal theater, the location of
Dali’s first exhibition. The artist spent the last part of his life designing
the museum to be a work of art in its
own right. In addition to a collection of 4,000 object, 1500 of which are on
display, the museum now also houses the artist’s tomb. When you finally
approach the building, you find mannequin-like statues on the roof holding
bread baguettes and a large female sculpture standing atop a big, black
Cadillac in the courtyard.
inside the museum is like walking into Alice’s wonderland, where nothing is as
it seems. Dali’s creations are displayed in a maze-like configuration of rooms
and corridors. You can view a multi-story image of colored squares ostensibly
showing the title image, Gala [Dali’s wife] Nude Looking at the Sea.
But, when viewed through binoculars, that painting coalesces into a portrait of
Abraham Lincoln. You can also view a classical-style statue with working
pull-drawers in her body. And you’ll see optical illusions, installations,
jewelry, and surreal films. The
highlight of the museum visit for me was a room with a red sofa in its center,
a fireplace between two paintings on a back wall, and a drapery-bordered
doorway. When you ascend the stairs at the edge of the space and look through a
lens, the whole room magically morphs into the face of Mae West with her golden
hair framing her portrait.
More than an art museum, The
Teatre-Museu Dali is an experience.
Dali himself said, “It’s obvious other worlds exist. . .
these other worlds are inside ours. They reside in the earth and precisely at
the centre of the dome of the Dalí Museum, which contains the new, unsuspected
and hallucinatory world of Surrealism.”
think, this world is less than two hours from Barcelona.
(Across the room, it looks like
Lincoln; up close there is a nude with her back to us.)
Photos by Bruce A Mellin