August 22, 2017

Florida Life

Getaways: Revisiting Dali . . . and Tiffany

The new Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg and the expanded Morse Museum in Winter Park give viewers a broad, serious look at artists who cycled through household fame, critical disdain and now a return to serious respect.

Chris Sherman | 3/1/2011

Dali Museum helix
Galleries wind sensually around spiraling stairs that echo Dali's fascination with the discovery of the double helix. [Photo: Scott Keeler/St. Petersburg Times]
On St. Petersburg's waterfront, a massive four-story cube balances on a single pear-shaped boulder, all of its weight bearing down on a narrow point of rock. The combination of stark geometry and the organic roughness of natural stone is surreal — like distant barren landscapes by Salvador Dalí.

Just the point. This is the portal into a dramatic new museum that houses more than 90 of Dalí's flamboyant works that change with your perspective — as does the new museum itself. From the waterside, the cube is gripped and groped by a glass worm, made of more than 900 geodesic panels that reflect Dalí's wild imagination and his fascination with the modern science.

The new Dalí museum opened in January with a month of celebrations, including a royal salute from Princess Cristina of Spain. It is one of two major building projects that give world-famous artists bigger homes in Florida this winter. The other is the new wing of the Morse Museum in Winter Park, which opened last month. It houses a collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany masterpieces.

The Dalí landed in Florida in 1982 after St. Petersburg offered a showcase for the then-homeless collection of Cleveland collectors A. Reynolds and Eleanor Morse. The Morses bought their first Dalí, "Daddy Longlegs of the Evening, Hope!" with its drooping airplane, dancing horse and weeping angel, in 1943; they became friends, patrons and translators of the artist and one of his biggest collectors.

Today, the collection amounts to 96 oils, from his earliest formative portraits to his most provocative studies where bodies and watches twist and melt, and Venus de Milo, Voltaire and Lincoln appear, morph and disappear. The new museum is large enough to display the entire collection.

Dalí gets increasing attention both from the art world that once disdained him as a showman, as well as from a public who regard his wild imagination as defining modern art. To fellow artists, Dalí pioneered a mad mix of media, from film to fashion — and lobster telephones.

"It is his technical skill that arrests you," says museum director Hank Hine. "The fine brush work, the incredible modulation of light and color, the persistent whimsy and surprise, these are things that do not reveal themselves by viewing a few images on posters or in a textbook.'' Dalí used baroque painting talent to illustrate the most avant-garde images.

With so much to contemplate, it's delightful that the museum also provides relaxing views of the bay through the kaleidoscopic glass and a restful grotto fed by water springing surreally from that same miraculous boulder at the door.

Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus
Dalí's 14-foot-high "Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus" [Photo: The Dali Museum]

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