Alice in Wonderland, 1977 Salvador Dalì © London Art


“Dalì and the City” exhibition at Moor House

John Platypus – May 2011 

“an icon of the twentieth century art”

Moor House is hosting the refined exhibition “Dalí and the City”. Ongoing until the 30th June 2011, it has an interesting point of view about the famous Catalan artist. Moor House is a large office building in Moorgate, London, designed by Sir Norman Foster.

While in the square in front of the edifice the anti -cuts protests are ongoing, inside the building this stunning exhibition displays pieces of Dalí rarely seen in the UK.

A tall bronze statue – Alice in Wonderland,’ height 480 cm – opens the exhibition located outside of the building just in front of the entrance. Conceived in 1977 it is the most important piece of the exhibition and it has never been seen in the UK.

Indoor a broad array of sculptures, prints and original collages is present. Sculptures are interesting for their subjects, namely the “Melting Watch” a recurrent theme in Dalí’s body of works, who was so much obsessed by watches that in his autobiography “La vie secrete” (1942) said: “The mechanical object was become my worst enemy, and as for watches, they would have to be soft or not to be at all!.”

Dalí was fascinated by the occult and the subconscious. Therefore, the artist designed an entire Tarot Card series from which there are five of them on display, very original works created in a mixed medium of collage, gouache and watercolour on board.

This exhibition displays two pieces from the series ‘Memoires du Surrealism’ (1971). It was created by Dalí in the last years of his life looking back to his career and producing this series of twelve etching on lithographs.

Also on show pieces from the etching series ‘Flora Suite’ that blends Surrealism and flowers. Finally the ‘Anniversary Series’ that brings together several techniques such as stamp-signed, mixed media lithograph, serigraph and l’eau fort, and pieces are representing the same theme of the sculptures.

Dalí was a gifted draftsman with unique skills. His extensive artistic repertoire includes film, sculpture, jewellery and photography, in collaboration with a range of artists in a variety of media. Salvador Dalí is an icon of the twentieth century art. He was born in Catalonia on 11th May 1904 and his real name was Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, Marquis of Dalí de Púbol. He claimed that his ancestors were descended from the Moors – so that Moor House sounds appropriate for an exhibition, isn’t it?

Salvador Dalí had a troubled private life. He believed to be the reincarnation of his dead brother. His mother death in 1921 was the greatest blow in his life and, after the event happened, his father married the sister of his mother. Salvador Dalí liked this marriage, because he had a great love and respect for his aunt.

In 1922, Dalí moved to Madrid and studied at the Academia de San Fernando. He already drew attention as an eccentric man inspired by English Aesthetes of the 19th century. He became close friends with Pepín Bello and Luis Buñuel. The friendship with Federico García Lorca, instead, had a strong element of mutual passion, but Dalí rejected the poet’s sexual advances. However, Dalí was noticed for his paintings, experimenting with Cubism. He was expelled from the Academia (1926), shortly before his final exams, when he stated that no one on the faculty was competent enough to examine him.

The 1929 was a key year for Dalí. He collaborated with surrealist film director Luis Buñuel on the short film ‘Un Chien Andalou’ (An Andalusian Dog). In the same year, Dalí officially joined the Surrealist group in Paris, and was hailed for his paranoiac-critical method of accessing the subconscious for greater artistic creativity.

In August Dalí met his muse and future wife Gala. Born the 7thSeptember 1894 in Tartarstan (Russia) as Elena Ivanova Diakonova, she was ten years older than him. Gala at that time was married to surrealist poet Paul Éluard, they met while in Switzerlandand get married in 1917. Gala detested motherhood, mistreating their daughter Cécile (born 1918) for all of her life. With Éluard, Gala became involved in the Surrealist movement and was an inspiration for many artists including Éluard, Louis Aragon, Max Ernst and André Breton. She, Éluard and Ernst spent three years in a ménage à trois, from 1924-27.

After living together since 1929, Dalí and Gala married in a civil ceremony in 1934, and remarried in a Catholic ceremony in 1958. Because of his phobia of female genitalia, Dalí was said to be a virgin when they first met. She was a muse for Dalí and acted as his agent. Gala had a strong sex drive and throughout her life had numerous extramarital affairs – including Paul Éluard and even after their divorce – encouraged by Dalí who was a practitioner of candaulism. Gala loved young artists, and in her late seventies had a relationship with rock singer Jeff Fenholt, covering him with gifts, who later became a televangelist.

Also in 1929 Dalí‘s relationship with his father broke up. Don Salvador Dalí strongly condemned the relationship with Gala and the Surrealist connections. Don Salvador was fuming when his son exhibited a drawing with a provocative inscription: “Sometimes, I spit for fun on my mother’s portrait.” Dalí refused to retract and was violently thrown out of his paternal home. His father would disinherit him, and told him never set foot in Cadaquès again. The following summer, Dalí and Gala rented a small fisherman’s cabin at Port Lligat that over the years gradually will become his much beloved villa.

Later in 1934, Dalí was subjected to a “trial”, in which he was formally expelled from the Surrealist group because he refused to explicitly denounce fascism. To this, Dalí retorted, “I myself am surrealism.”

Because of the World War II, in 1940 Dalí and Gala moved to the United States, where they lived for eight years. After the move, Dalí returned to the practice of Catholicism.

From 1949, Dalí spent his remaining years back in Catalonia, but he was much criticised because Spain was ruled by Franco. Dalí’s post–World War II period confirms its talent and an interest in optical illusions, science, and religion. He became an increasingly devout Catholic. Between 1941 and 1970, Dalí produced a collection of 39 extraordinary jewels. Also in 1969, he created the Chupa Chups logo.

Salvador Dali and Amanda Lear

In 1965 in a club in Paris, Dalí met Amada Lear. He was roughly 40 years her senior. She was already modeling and rapidly became a muse for him. Lear’s early life is unclear, including her birth date, her gender, her parents, and the location of upbringing. Lear’s alleged transsexual background has been much mentioned.

Dalí was hit by her look but also saw a kindred spirit in her. Lear has described their close and unusual relationship as:“Dalí was my teacher… Surrealism was a good school for me. Listening to Dalí talk was better than going to any art school.” She accompanied him and his wife on trips around the world and took part and posed for Dalí’s work.

Lear remained Dalí’s confidante, protégée and mistress all through the Sixties and Seventies. However, she was also romantically linked to Brian Jones, which resulted in the ironic Rolling Stones track “Miss Amanda Jones”, and had several affairs with artists and personalities. In 1979 she married French bisexual aristocrat Alain-Philippe Malagnac d’Argens de Villèle, just three weeks after the couple first met in Paris. He was the former lover turned adopted son of diplomat and controversial gay novelist Roger Peyrefitte.

Dalí and Gala strongly disapproved the relationship with Malagnac, who had a bad reputation in Parisian high society and even attempted to persuade Lear to annul the marriage. As a consequence, and also as Lear’s successful career, they began drifting apart. Still sporadically kept in touch through the mid-Eighties, especially after Gala died in 1982, Lear only very briefly visited Dalí in 1988 and then shortly before he died.Malagnac became a successful art dealer and was married to Lear for twenty-one years, until his premature passing in 2000.

In 1980, Dalí’s health deteriorated. In 1982 King Juan Carlos conferred to Dalí the title of Marquis of Dalí de Púbol. Gala died in Port Lligat in the 10th June 1982. After Gala’s death, Dalí lost much of his will to live. He moved to the castle in Púbol, which he had bought for Gala and was the site of her death. In November 1988, Dalí entered the hospital with heart failure, and on 23rd January 1989 died. He is buried in the crypt of his Teatro Museo in Figueres. The location is across the street from the church of Sant Pere, where he had his baptism, first communion, and funeral, and is three blocks from the house where he was born.

Dalí was a highly imaginative person with an eccentric behaviour for which he was sometimes better known than his artwork. A cause of this he was attacked his entire life, was object of extremely harsh polemics and probably exorcised by an Italian priest. However, his notoriety did not stop to grow and nowadays Dalí is recognised as one of the most important artists of all time.

The exhibition is organised by Modern Masters Gallery and sponsored by Equiduct and The Dalí Universe.

At the Art MoorHouse, 120 London Wall, City, EC2Y 5ET, until the 30th June 2011.