Virtual Museum Impressions: Salvador Dali’s Dali Theatre Museum

June 10, 2021

Over the past year, I made a number of virtual visits to museums and because I enjoyed seeing how museums outside of the United States set up their virtual spaces, I wanted to make more trips to them. I chose to visit the Salvador Dali Museums in Spain not only because I found out one of my followers works there but I also appreciate visiting art museums and wanted to learn more about Salvador Dali. Dali, who was born on May 11, 1904, in Figueres, is a Surrealist artist whose repertoire included painting, graphic arts, film, sculpture, design and photography. He created the Dali Foundation which is responsible for managing the Theatre-Museum in Figueres, the Gala-Dalí Castle in Púbol, and the Salvador Dalí House in Portlligat. I decided to visit the Theatre-Museum first and in this post, I will share some highlights from my virtual experience. I know that I would not be able to see everything all at once so I will be revisiting this museum a number of times after my initial trip.

I virtually visited the Dali Theatre Museum (Teatre-Museu Dali/Teatro-Museo Dali) located in Figueres, Spain towards the end of May. According to their website, the Dali Theatre Museum was inaugurated in 1974. In the beginning of the 1960s, the mayor of Figueres at the time, Ramon Guardiola, asked Dali to donate a work for the Museu de l l’Empordà; in response, Dali not only donated a work, but he donated an entire museum. Dali wished to have this project located at the former Municipal Theatre of Figures that was destroyed in a fire at the end of the Spanish Civil War. Today, the museum has approximately 1,500 pieces on display which allow visitors to see Dali’s artistic journey through the broad spectrum of his works from his first artistic experiences, surrealism, nuclear mysticism, his passion for science, to the works of the last part of his life. I shared some highlights from my virtual visit to the Dali Theatre-Museum.

Main Entrance

One of the interesting things I learned in my visit is the museum not only holds Salvador Dali’s works but also another artist’s works, his friend Antoni Pitxot (1934-2015). Salvador Dali himself appointed Pitxot to be the director of the Dali Theatre-Museum which he held until his death. Dali set aside space for Pitxot’s works on the second floor of the museum as a permanent exhibition. In addition to the Pitxot exhibit, it also holds one piece that was not created by Salvador Dali. When I entered the museum, there was a collage fan that according to the caption was designed by French model and actress Amanda Lear under Dali’s guidance. I liked that the museum encourages visitors to design their own collages. The caption read: Why not try making your own collage at home. It doesn’t have to be on a fan!

Fan Collage in the Dali Theatre-Museum

         As I continued to walk through the museum, I noticed a car in the middle of the courtyard, so I decided to take a closer look of the space and the car. It was a Cadillac, known as the Rainy Taxi, that was placed inside of the museum by a crane before the building was completed. The museum included a challenge I enjoyed participating in within the virtual space for visitors to go inside the car. According to the captions, in order to get inside the car to discover what is in it one would have to click onto the spot next to the door and see if it opens then once it does try to go inside; once the challenge is completed, one is encouraged to share pictures, tag the museum, and use the hashtag #CadillacDaliChallenge on Instagram. I did the challenge and my Instagram post with more pictures from the challenge can be found in the list below.

Courtyard
Rainy Taxi

Then I continued to the Cupola to see more of the impressive architecture and the large painting that is the first piece that drew my eye within the space. Salvador Dali painted this oil painting called “Labyrinth” which was created for the ballet of the same name based on the Greek myth of Theseus and Ariadne. The ballet was first performed in 1941 at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. I was not only impressed with the size of the painting, but I was also impressed with the imagery Dali captured. Within the painting, there is a giant person that has a tree on its chest with an entryway underneath it seems to lead to the labyrinth which is not seen completely but tall trees and cliffs are seen; surrounding all of it is a body of water. The imagery made me wonder what could be beyond the entrance, and what is there that I could not see. I thought the painting really represented the surrealism he was known for, and when I think of settings for ballet, I do not immediately think of surrealist art which is why I was surprised it was a part of a ballet. Dali also designed the sets and costumes for the ballet in addition to creating this painting.

What I also learned and caught me by surprise was not only Dali created this museum, but he is also buried inside of his museum. I noticed a white slab in the middle of the floor, and it was until I revisited the Cupola that I learned underneath it lies Salvador Dali’s tomb. In his last wishes, he wanted to be buried inside of his museum and his wishes were met after he died on January 23, 1989. As far as I can remember, I do not believe I have visited a museum before in which an artist or even a museum founder is buried within the museum. It seems to me that Dali’s last wishes show his dedication to his museum, his art, and the community he was born into by becoming a physical part of a place visitors can view his works. I decided to find more information about the tomb.  While I was looking, I came across a post from a few years ago when his remains were exhumed as part of a request by Pilar Abel Martínez to take a DNA sample as part of the legal proceedings to prove she is Dali’s daughter; I included a link to this post in the list below.

Salvador Dali’s Labyrinth and his tomb

        The next room I went into is called the Mae West Room, which is a three-dimensional representation of American actress Mae West’s face converted into a living room space. I did not realize when I first went into the room that it was a face until the further I was in the room the more I recognized the living room furniture as parts of the face; then I saw the whole face when I was looking down from a small set of stairs in the room. According to the museum, this representation was based on a work he made in 1934 which was a gouache on newspaper collage called “Mae West’s Faced Used as an Apartment”; the gouache on newspaper collage is on display at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Mae West Room
Mae West Face

One of the last places I visited within the museum was within Loggia where I saw the dark room with a display of Babaouo, a film project Dali worked on in the early 1930s. He wrote a screenplay for the film in 1932 and he built in the museum a wooden box with seven panes of glass he painted in the interior, placed one behind the other and was lit from the back. I thought it was interesting that the characters in Babaouo were also in another film project called Destino which was a collaboration between Salvador Dali and Walt Disney. They began the short film project in 1946 after Dali signed a contract with Disney on January 14th; Dali installed himself in the Disney Studios in Burbank, California, where he set about drafting the screenplay and creating a series of drawings and oil paintings. While it was a 6-to-8-minute short film, only 15 seconds was completed at the time. Destino was completed in 2003 on the basis of Dali’s original sketches.

Babaouo

        I hope to visit this museum in person one day and learn more about Salvador Dali and his works. If you have visited this museum before, virtually and/or in-person, please share your experiences in the comments. I will be visiting this museum again and I will also be planning my visits to the other museums the Dali Foundation manages. To see more pictures from the visit, check out the website’s Instagram: lbmfmuseumeducation.

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Links:

Dali Museums

Virtual Dali Theatre-Museum

Rainy Taxi Installation Story

The exhumation of Salvador Dali’s remains

Dali Theatre Museum: Destino

2 Comments

  1. I visited the dali museum in Figueres, Spain after visiting the Dali museum in St Petersburg, FL. My interest in art was sparked by Dali. I love the st Pete Dali because of all of his masterpieces, huge portraits of surrealism through the beautifully designed building. I was struck by the few large paintings in the Figueres museum. It had more sketches from later in his life while the St Pete museum has chronicled his entire artistic history. I did love seeing the large painting of gala and him rising to the heavens from the perspective of his feet in the large living area. Also, his bedroom in Figueres had interesting artifacts and art and his buried remains brought me closer to the artist. The st Pete museum building is less interesting because the Figueres building has dali’s personal touch but St Pete has more art. You can’t go wrong going to either museum as both are interesting and will have you appreciate the talent of this unique man. The only other person I know buried in his own museum is Nicola Tesla in his museum in Belgrade, Serbia.

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