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Advertise on the Tentacle

February 27, 2013

The new Dali Museum in St. Pete

Kevin E. Dayhoff

The new Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, has now been open for over two-years. The much-anticipated fantastical $36 million, 66,450 square foot museum doubled the capacity of the previous 1982 building that I had the opportunity to in February 2009.


The original museum had opened in a renovated marine warehouse in 1982. The new museum – which is the home of 2,140 pieces of Salvador Dali’s art, including 96 oil paintings and eight huge master works – opened on the auspicious date of January 11, 2011, (1/11/11) at 11:11 a.m.


The museum in downtown St. Petersburg houses one of the most extensive collections of the art of Dalí in the world. The collection began in Cleveland in 1942 where collecting Dali’s art was the lifelong passion of industrialist A. Reynolds Morse, and his wife Eleanor Reese Morse.


Sadly, my winter schedules in the last number of years have not included a visit to the Dali Museum, or the opportunity to see the local sights in the St. Petersburg and Tampa area in such as the Sunshine Skyway – completed in 1987; it spans the mouth of Tampa Bay and is the world's longest cable-stayed concrete bridge.


This year I was able to juggle my schedule to visit and see for myself what the buzz is all about at the new museum, which many are calling one of the world’s Top 10 art destinations. Find a number of pictures here…


As you approach the museum, you are immediately impressed with the enormity of what appears at first glance to be a huge, introverted, enigmatic cubist-snail on steroids.


The internationally recognized architect Yann Weymouth led the design team. The museum structure is a magnificent adaption to a site with many design challenges, including – but not limited to – the fact that it houses one of the foremost collections of art in the world in a hurricane zone, just feet above sea level with a profound flood and wind hazard…


The landscaping does not disappoint either. Having made a living as a landscape designer, one of my first tasks was to walk around the building to observe how well the hardscaping and the landscaping provide the building with site location and situational context.


Construction began on the new museum in December 2008; and, according to numerous media accounts, the massive structure has a 12-inch thick solid concrete roof and 18-inch concrete walls so that it can withstand a Category 5 hurricane.


According to information on the Dali Museum website, “The museum’s exterior is itself a work of art, featuring 1062 triangular-shaped glass panels. This geodesic glass structure – nicknamed the “Enigma” – is the only structure of its kind in North America and is a 21st Century expression of Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome as utilized in Dalí’s Teatro Museo in Figueres, Spain. No two glass panels are identical, providing a kaleidoscopic view of St. Petersburg’s picturesque waterfront.


After passing through the gift shop, visitors enter an open three-story tall, day-lit lobby and are immediately overwhelmed with the “The Helican Staircase,” a 75-foot tall spiraling set of stairs, which ascends to the third floor galleries where the bulk of the collection is housed well above even a 30-foot storm surge.


According to various accounts, the stairwell represents an energetic form created with mathematical precision, resembling a strand of DNA. Much of Dali’s work is religious and Dalí recognized the helix as evidence of the divine in nature…”


For those of us who understand the economic value of art and culture to a community, according to an article on the museum website, “On Wednesday, January 11, 2012, the new Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida announced the distinguished new building received 370,000 visitors from around the world…


“(P)reliminary estimates by Walter Klages, of Research Data Services, the economic impact to the St. Petersburg/Clearwater amounts to $52 million of direct visitor spending and an overall addition of $104.5 million to the regional economy…”


Of most of the great 20th century artists, the art of Salvador Dali remains some of the most complicated. Dali is one of the best known artists of the past century and more often than not, his work is intellectually misunderstood.


Although he lived in the United States for eight years after the outbreak of World War II, he was born on May 11, 1904, in Catalonia, Spain, where he died on January 23, 1989.


He married Gala, born Elena Ivanovna Diakonova, a Russian 11 years older than he, in 1934, after living with her since shortly after they met in August 1929 – when she was married to a Surrealist writer and poet, Paul Eluard…


In “pop culture,” Dali is primarily known as a Surrealist; however his work, over the span of his lifetime included drawings, paintings, film, writing, jewelry, sculpture, and photography of many genres.


His first one-man show was in Barcelona in 1925. He was introduced to the American audience in an exhibition in New York in 1934. It was at that show that one of his most well-known paintings, “Persistence of Memory,” with the melting watches, was exhibited, and the American art scene was forever enthralled.


If you ever find yourself in the south Florida area, even if you are not an art enthusiast, do not pass up an opportunity to visit the Dali Museum in the downtown St. Petersburg waterfront part of town – at 1 Dalí Boulevard (475 Bayshore St. SE) Saint Petersburg, FL. 33701, (727) 823-3767.


The hours are Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 10 A.M.- 5:30 P.M.; Thursday 10 A.M. to 8 P.M.; and Sunday, noon to 5:30 P.M. Military, police and firefighters have an admission price of $19. Students with an ID are $15. After 5 P.M. on Thursdays admission is only $10.


. . . . .I’m just saying. . . .


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