Dali Museum is planning a $38 million expansion in St. Petersburg

MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE   |   Times Visitors at the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg in 2018.
MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times Visitors at the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg in 2018.
Published April 10, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG — The Salvador Dalí Museum is planning a major expansion that would grow the museum physically and digitally, with the addition of exhibits that use artificial intelligence and augmented reality.

The museum filed an application seeking $17.5 million of bed tax money from Pinellas County to support an expansion that includes a new parking garage, event spaces and room for its new digital exhibits, which leaders are calling Digital Dalí.

According to the documents, the two-year expansion is estimated to cost more than $38 million, $30 million of that in construction. It would add a new wing with 20,000 square feet for community spaces and digital exhibits. It also plans for a 150,000-square-foot parking garage, increasing the number of parking places from 130 to 400.

The application goes before the Pinellas County Commission Tuesday. Museum officials did not return request for comment Monday afternoon.

Some exhibits that would go into the new digital space were announced earlier this year. "Dalí Lives" uses artificial intelligence to resurrect the Surrealist master. The museum partnered with Goodby Silverstein & Partners, a San Francisco-based advertising agency, to bring back Dalí, who died in 1989. On screens throughout the museum, Dalí will talk about his art and comment on current events.

His paintings get the digital treatment with "Visual Magic: Dalí's Masterworks in Augmented Reality." The exhibition aims to get a more in-depth look and understanding of his most famous paintings.

The museum is already using technology, most recently in the exhibition, "Magritte and Dalí," with an augmented reality portion where guests insert themselves into a painting from each artist.

Expanded community and education spaces would grow the museum's creative training program, Innovation Labs at the Dalí. A bigger event space would hold up to 350 people. The Dalí plans to position itself and St. Petersburg as a destination wedding site.

This is not the first time the museum, which opened in 1982, has grown. In 2011, the Dalí reopened with a new $36 million building that doubled the museum's size, made more room for the art, protected it from hurricane impact and created its signature glass helix shape on St. Petersburg's waterfront by the Mahaffey Theater.

After a fight for money during contentious economic times, the Dalí received millions in state and city funding, plus hefty contributions from private donors and longtime patrons.

The new museum doubled visitation and "further established it as an epicenter of culture and a key element in St. Petersburg's downtown artistic renaissance," museum executive director Hank Hine wrote in the current proposal.

Fundraising is planned for this expansion, too, in part for an solar voltaic system covering a portion of the parking area and gathering electricity and rainwater.

Other plans include a bridge tying the developments together.

The museum draws between 360,000 and 450,000 visitors annually, 75 percent of whom aren't local, according to the petition. Officials hope to draw an additional 900,000 visitors in the decade following the proposed expansion, including more younger visitors and families.

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Contact Maggie Duffy at Follow @maggiedalexis.