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The Dalí Year: an open gaze

On May 11th, a hundred years ago, Salvador Dalí, one of the greatest surrealists, was born in Figueras (Catalonia, Spain). At the beginning of his artistic career, he was actively involved in the artistic modernisation of Spain. In his own country, he quickly became a prominent avant-garde figure and, together with his friend -the poet and playwright Federico García Lorca, began to lay the foundations of Surrealism in Spain for both literature and the arts. However, it was in Paris, and thanks to his affiliation with the surrealist group, led by the writer André Breton, that Dalí came to enjoy ever-increasing international fame. Gifted with an extraordinary technique, a delirious imagination and a boundless desire to provoke, Dalí was a controversial figure who left an artistic heritage of unquestionable value. His frantic creativity found expression in various disciplines and with remarkable results. However, painting remained the field he preferred to work in, relegating everything else to second place.
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of his birth, the Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation, in collaboration with several Spanish regional administrations, organised the Dalí Year 2004. A never-ending schedule of exhibitions, symposia, congresses, publications and other cultural activities is planned, giving the general public a chance, not only to deepen their existing knowledge about the artist, but also the opportunity to discover facts that were previously unknown.

Cover for Vogue. 1 April 1944
Courtesy MNCARS

Two main international exhibitions are scheduled for 2004 and 2005. The first - Dalí. Cultura de masas (Dalí. Mass culture) - is currently showing until August 30th, 2004, at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía - MNCARS (Madrid, Spain). It will then travel to the Salvador Dalí Museum (Saint Petersburg, Florida, USA; from August 10th, 2004, to January 12th, 2005) and the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen (Rotterdam, The Netherlands; from March 5th to June 12th, 2005). The exhibition includes oil paintings, drawings, films and objects; all in all, more than 400 works of art. It focuses on Dali`s contribution to mass culture (namely cinema, design, fashion, advertisement, photography and press.) From the very beginning of his career, the artist was very drawn by mass culture, and managed, throughout his life, to avoid a separation between high and low culture, something unusual for an artist in the 20th century.
The second exhibition - Salvador Dalí, antológica (Salvador Dalí, retrospective) - will be held at the Palazzo Grassi (Venice, Italy; from September 12th, 2004, to January 1st, 2005) and the Philadelphia Museum of Art (Philadelphia, USA; from February 16th to May 15th, 2005). The retrospective is the biggest ever curated, with more than 200 oil paintings. Its aim is to introduce visitors to the widest possible range of Dalí’s work (painting, creative writing, objects, design for ballet and exhibitions, cinema, theory and advertising). It goes well beyond surrealism by showing us the influences of other movements and his interest in psychoanalysis and sciences, among other subjects.

El gran masturbador", 1929 Courtesy MNCARS

On a national level, the MNCARS is showing another exhibition to complement the others in its programme: Huellas dalinianas (Dalinian imprints), until October 18th, 2004. It will then travel to the ARTIUM Centro-Museo Vasco de Arte Contemporáneo (Vitoria, the Basque Country, Spain). The exhibition follows the impact Dalí made on Spanish arts between 1927 and 1939, when the Spanish civil war ended. 104 artworks (paintings, drawings, sculptures, photos and collages) by 40 artists portray Dalí's influence on Spanish surrealism.
Many other exhibitions are currently running; they focus on various aspects of Dalí’s life and work: his work as Quixote's illustrator, unusual photos of the artist himself, the Manifiesto Amarillo or Manifiesto antiartístico catalán (Yellow Manifesto or Anti-artistic Catalan Manifesto) - signed by the artist in 1928 with the critics Sebastiá Gasch and Lluís Montanyà to protest against classical catalan culture, and a large selection of drawings.
There are numerous publications specifically marking the 100th anniversary of Dali's birth, including texts written by the artist himself. In fact, one of the greatest achievements of the Dalí Year has been revealing to the public what a remarkable writer Dali was. Lorca himself predicted a brilliant future for his friend as a writer and Dalí surprised his audience with his experimental pieces, full of originality and wit. His complete works in eight volumes will come out soon; it will include autobiographical texts, collaborations with other authors, poetry, cinema and fiction. Dalí's only novel - Rostros Ocultos (Hidden Faces), 1943 - has also recently been published for the first time, uncensored, in Spain. Biographies, monographs, memoirs and interviews, essays, texts on Gala, photo books and numerous catalogues complete the range of publications on offer. The catalogue on Dalí’s paintings stands out among them; published by the Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation, it can be viewed on the foundation’s web page free of charge.

Salvador Dalí - Busto de mujer retrospectivo, 1933
Courtesy MNCARS

Dalí also worked in the performing arts with some memorable results. His collaborations in cinematic productions is unforgettable, for example, in those of his friend Luis Buñuel (Un perro andaluz, 1929, and La edad de oro, 1930), the Marx brothers, Hitchcock (Dalí designed the scenery of Spellbound, 1945) and Walt Disney. He often worked on scenery and dresses for the ballet and the theatre. To mark the Dalí Year, the Festival Castillo de Peralada (Catalonia, Spain) has decided to perform several of his pieces: the ballets El sombrero de tres picos and El café de Chinitas (on August 18th, 2004) and Dalidance, are currently on tour in Spain. The Spanish choreographer Ramón Oller took three of Dalí’s works - Bacchanale, Labyrinth and Mad Tristan (all performed for the first time in New York between 1939 and 1944) - and, taking inspiration from his four backdrops and the artist himself with all his passions, obsessions and symbolism, put on an extraordinary show in the purest Dalí style.
The events mentioned above are just a few of the most important and even at this stage the official programme itself is frequently changing to include new projects. According to Montse Aguer - its curator - the Dalí Year “is designed to give an open and diverse look both at the artist and at the audience that views (or reads) his creation.” The Dalí Year offers us an excellent opportunity to get closer to all the different aspects and works of this versatile, timeless artist. A hundred years have passed since his birth, but still the interest in the artist’s work is very much alive and ever increasing. As has been shown once again, genius is unaffected by time. Is this then the secret hidden behind his soft watches?

Text: Patricia Blasco
Translation: Micaela Cecchinato
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