Thursday, January 13, 2011

The New Dali Museum Opens

This past Tuesday, at 11:11 a.m. (numerology that would have pleased Salvador Dali), I joined about a thousand other guests and spectators to celebrate the opening of St. Petersburg's new Dali Museum.

Lots of people got in the spirit of the day and came in Dali costumes, like Janice Embrey Brown (l.) and B. J. Ebersold (r.), both Dali Museum docents.

There was also a large and colorful contingent from the Krewe of the Knights of Sant' Yago.

I don't think anyone would argue that the most ardent Dali supporter that morning was a young man named Daniel.

The ceremonies began with a parade from the old museum to the new building, led by the Snailhead Stilt Walker.

Here I am with the architect, Yann Weymouth. Note that he's wearing a tie that repeats the geodesic glass structure.

Mr. Weymouth designed the $36 million building to withstand a Category 5 hurricane. Galleries are located in 16,000 square feet of space on the third floor, so there will never be a worry about flooding. In my posting on Sunday, I'll be sharing views from inside the museum and through those windows. But for now, I thought I'd show a couple of neat outdoor details.

The entrance to the museum is described as a grotto, and it appears to support one corner of the structure. Incorporated into the grotto is a Fountain of Youth. I drank from it, but haven't noticed any changes kick in yet.

Here's a sliding metal gate that casts Dali's signature in light. Wouldn't he have loved that!

The new Dali Museum was dedicated by the Infanta Cristina, daughter of Spanish King Juan Carlos I. Numerous dignitaries spoke, but the most interesting comments were by Brad Morse, son of benefactors A. Reynolds and Eleanor Morse, and by Jorge Dezcallar, the Spanish Ambassador to the United States.

Brad Morse described his parents' passion for the works of Salvador Dali, and how Dali art overflowed even onto the walls of his childhood bedroom. He also described how the elder Morses never turned down requests by complete strangers to come to their Cleveland home to look at their collection.

Ambassador Dezcallar described that as a young diplomat in the United States, he had wanted to meet Salvador Dali. He telephoned the artist, who suggested that the young Dezcallar treat him to lunch. The ambassador described Dali then coming to the restaurant with a party of eight! With not enough money to cover the bill, and credit cards not allowed, Dezcallar had to leave his watch behind.

Sunday - views from inside the new Dali.


  1. Oh so exciting! I so want to come down and see it!

  2. I love that doorway with Dali's signature; such a great detail!

  3. Thanks for letting me be a fly on the wall on this one! This is an incredible post.

  4. Thanks, Scott, Stefan and Theresa - more to come in the next posting!

  5. Very interesting post Mark.

    Was the museum built in St. Petersburg because that is where the benefactors are from? I wonder if Amanda Lear, his muse from the 1960s and 1970s, was at the ceremonies?

    I like Dali because although he was original, modern, and innovative, he was a superb draftsman, and there are often details which are accurately (or appear to be) representational.

    I like his religious art and his portraits. A favorite portrait is the one he did of Mona Bismarck. She was on the Best Dressed List, and he painted her in shredded rags!

    How lucky you are to have this fantastic museum. Your photos and personal thoughts on it are most engaging. Thank you.

  6. Hi, Terry! I love the story of Mona Bismarck depicted in shredded rags!

    A. Reynolds and Eleanor Morse were a young couple from Cleveland who fell in love with Dali's work in the 1940s. Morse was the heir of an industrial plant and continued buying every Dali painting he could, for decades. Dali was flattered and became very good friends with the Morses.

    About 30 years ago, the Morses realized that the inheritance taxes on their collection would bankrupt the family business. They were also very generous in spirit, and wanted to share the collection with a large audience.

    No museum in Cleveland or anywhere else in the country would accept the collection under the Morses' conditions, their primary stipulation being that all the paintings must stay together and be displayed.

    A persistent St. Petersburg lawyer named Martin read of their search and made repeated calls to lure them to St. Petersburg. After four calls, the Morses agreed to look at this city. They were impressed by the location (on a beautiful bayfront), and by the fact that the city, county and state were all supportive. The first Dali building was a warehouse that was turned into a wonderful museum, but one still not large enough to display the entire Morse collection (the new museum will).

    Mr. Martin was one of the honored speakers at the opening of the new museum. Brad Morse was also present, and in a ceremony within a ceremony, signed over the last two of the Morse's Dali paintings.