Salvador Dalí Museum celebrates first anniversary with plans for Picasso, neo-pop artist Jeff Koons

Decked out in Dalí-like attire, Eric Williams rappels from the Dalí Museum’s Glass Enigma to the cafe below during the anniversary celebration Wednesday. The museum’s attendance doubled from the year before.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Decked out in Dalí-like attire, Eric Williams rappels from the Dalí Museum’s Glass Enigma to the cafe below during the anniversary celebration Wednesday. The museum’s attendance doubled from the year before.

ST. PETERSBURG — It wasn't much of a day for a birthday party, but despite gloomy skies and showers, the Salvador Dalí Museum celebrated its first anniversary Wednesday with hopes that year two attracts as many — and perhaps more — visitors.

A slate of exhibitions through 2014, including a Picasso show, is likely to keep attendance up.

The museum logged 370,000 ticketed visitors its first year, double the attendance the year before in the Dalí's former location, museum director Hank Hine told a large group gathered at the foot of the centerpiece spiral staircase. That attendance, he said, generated $52 million in direct spending in Pinellas County and $104.5 million to the region overall. It also funds museum operations.

About 20 percent of the year's attendance came from Pinellas County, Hine said, also double the percentage at the former location. In addition to heavy attendance from Tampa Bay area and state visitors, the museum attracted people from 50 countries represented on the tally sheet.

The Dalí's first major visiting exhibition opens in October with sculptures and paintings by contemporary American neo-pop artist Jeff Koons, who will attend an opening and give a lecture. The show runs through March 2013. Koons, 56, is best known for his large, reflective balloon animals made of stainless steel. His work has gone for as high as $25 million.

Hine said he is working with the artist to curate the show, which means the exhibition will be unique to the Dalí. Koons has drawn inspiration from Dalí's avant-garde work, and like the Dalí he has battled critics, Hine said. While some have praised his "technical virtuosity," others have slammed him for lack of imagination and tacky aesthetic. Koons made a splash in the tabloids for his marriage and subsequent breakup and legal wrangling with Italian porn star La Cicciolina. Like Dalí's, Koons' personal life has been fodder for the media.

Among the Koons' pieces to be displayed in the Hough wing of the Dalí will be Sacred Heart, Hanging Heart and Waterfall. The large-scale pieces would be suitable for outdoor exhibition, but Hine said the outlay for increased security is likely to prohibit that.

Next year, works from Basque sculptor Eduardo Chillida will be on display, and then 2014 will see the Pablo Picasso exhibit of sculptures and paintings from the Picasso Museum in Barcelona. Dates were not announced.

This summer, the Dalí will begin conservation on the museum's large masterworks. The work will be done so that museumgoers can observe, Hine said. This is the first time in 30 years that the paintings, which include Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea Which at Twenty Meters Becomes a Portrait of Abraham Lincoln, have been cleaned.

Wednesday's birthday celebration included a large cake in the shape of the Spanish surrealist's iconic mustache, plus a Dalí look-alike who rappeled from the top of the museum's Glass Enigma to the cafe below. Outdoor festivities were canceled because of the weather.

The $36 million museum designed by Yann Weymouth on the downtown St. Petersburg waterfront opened on Jan. 11, 2011, with a parade that included Spanish royalty. It houses the vast collection of the late Eleanor and A. Reynolds Morse, who began collecting Dalí's work in the 1940s.

Janet K. Keeler can be reached at jkeeler@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8586.

The Dalí's first year

370,000 Ticket visitors, including 17,000 students in tour groups

4,500 Mustaches sold in the gift shop

2,664 Stories that appeared in the media globally

225 Volunteers who gave tours and assisted in other departments

5 Number of weddings that took place at the museum

Salvador Dalí Museum celebrates first anniversary with plans for Picasso, neo-pop artist Jeff Koons 01/11/12 [Last modified: Thursday, January 12, 2012 8:25am]

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