ST. PETERSBURG — It must be a challenge for a place dedicated to a single artist to keep things fresh. But the Dalí Museum manages to do it with a current array of exhibitions. There are futuristic visions of familiar paintings, a master artist’s depictions of life in 19th century Spain, photographs of travel and food and rarely exhibited sculptures.
More and more, museums worldwide have incorporated digital technology into exhibits. The Dalí has used virtual and augmented reality to take viewers inside the art for five years. The artist himself currently talks to visitors from digital screens around the museum.
With “Visual Magic: Dalí’s Masterworks in Augmented Reality,” an app helps viewers learn more about the paintings curators have determined best encompass Spanish surrealist Salvador Dalí’s themes and visual motifs, anthologies of his artistic journey. The museum typically rotates out art, and this is the first time all of Dalí's masterworks have been on display together side by side since the museum moved to its current location in 2011. It’s nice to have the gang back together.
The Dalí app is free to download. Click on the Augmented Reality tab, hold the phone up to the paintings and they come to life on your screen. Elements move or become 3-D and then icons light up. Tap them. The voice of local actor Eugenie Bondurant emerges with facts about the work, pointing out double imagery or hidden figures. It’s delightful, but doesn’t distract from viewing the actual work.
I started with The Hallucinogenic Toreador, one of my all-time favorites. The bull’s head moved, some flies took flight and a teardrop fell from the Venus de Milo’s face. I learned that the repeating Venus figures were inspired by the brand name of a box of pencils Dalí found at an art supply store. Within the figures, Dalí created the image of a famous toreador who was killed in the ring.
The museum chose which facts to reveal about each work based on visitor surveys and docent accounts. The revelations are enlightening, especially about how much science and math influenced his works.
In contrast to this high-tech, futuristic exhibition, the museum also looks back at one of Dalí's most important influences, 19th century Spanish artist Francisco Goya. With “Before Dalí: Goya — Visions and Inventions,” the museum rotated two suites of prints from the prolific artist, who served four kings and was considered the most important painter and printmaker of his time. Los Caprichos, the first set, just left the museum. The next suite, La Tauromaquia, opens Sept. 21. The 33 prints explore the evolution of bullfighting on the Iberian Peninsula, re-creating the violence found in the rings.
Also on display are "Bronzes From the Vault,” a set of Dalí's sublime little sculptures from the museum’s collection. Dalí was commissioned to create them in the 1970s by publisher Isidro Clot. Cast from wax, they were ideal projects for Dalí then because he could work on the malleable material while sunning himself by his pool. They’re full of movement and double imagery, including one of a swan that becomes an elephant. The museum also has four large-scale reproductions created by Spanish group 2049 Obra Contemporanea S.A. on display outside in the Avant-garden. The group gifted the Dalí with Terpsichore, one of the nine muses in Greek mythology. She’s the goddess of chorus and dance, depicted with fluidity like she might float away.
Last but not least is “Flavors of Spain: Photos by Chef Bandel, Cafe Gala.” In the summers of 2017 and 2018, the Dalí sent Cafe Gala chef Chuck Bandel to Catalonia, Dalí’s homeland, and to Basque Country in Northern Spain. He got the opportunity to study at chef Paco Perez’s two-star Michelin restaurant Miramar and at the Restaurante Martin Berasategui. In addition to Bandel’s talent for cooking, he has an eye for photography, capturing colorful compositions of food; landmarks, including the Dome of the Sanctuary of Loyola; Dalí's home; and behind-the-scenes images in kitchens. One standout shows a group of chefs, their hands holding squirt bottles of various sauces, dry ice swirling beneath them. And be prepared to have your appetite piqued by the images of all that delectable food, works of art in themselves.
It’s all in the spirit of the museum’s namesake artist, whose appetite for knowledge made him ever the explorer.
IF YOU GO
“Visual Magic: Dalí's Masterworks in Augmented Reality,” “Before Dalí: Goya — Visions and Inventions and “Bronzes From the Vault” remain on display through Nov. 3. “Flavors of Spain” remains on display through Dec. 1. $25, $23 seniors, military, police, firefighters and educators, $18 students and ages 13-17, $10 ages 6-12, free for 5 and younger. After 5 p.m. Thursdays, $12, $8 kids 6-12. 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. daily, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursdays. 1 Dalí Blvd. (Bayshore Drive and Fifth Ave. SE), St. Petersburg. (727) 823-3767. thedali.org.