ST. PETERSBURG, FL.- The largest collection of Salvador Dali works outside of his native Spain is being moved to a more secure location, a hurricane-proof, cement and glass building located just blocks away from its original location in St. Petersburg, Florida.
The collection of 2,140 pieces, including 96 paintings by the "enfant terrible" of Surrealism, as well as numerous etchings and drawings, will be relocated in a new, $35 million structure in that west-central Florida city that will have a sturdier structure and be less exposed to the elements.
The most unique aspect of the new Salvador Dali museum will be its 45 centimeter-thick (18-inch-thick) walls, capable of resisting the impact of a Category 5 hurricane packing winds of up to 265 kilometers (165 miles) per hour.
Its external structure and interior design evoke elements that are very characteristic of Dali (1904-1989), such as "the rational and Apollonian alongside the irrational, Dionysian and fantastical," the museum's director, Dr. Charles Henri Hine, told Efe.
He said Dali's work will finally have the home it deserves in the new museum, which - if plans proceed according to schedule - will be inaugurated on Jan. 11, 2011.
One of the most important attributes of the St. Petersburg collection is that it gives a sense, like no other, of Dali's "successive periods" and allows his fervent admirers to appreciate him both as a "classic, almost impressionist" young artist and as a Surrealist painter and the creator of "Nuclear Mysticism," the director said, referring to a theory of art developed by Dali that combined religion, math, science and Catalan culture in an attempt to revive classical values and technique.
"There's no doubt that in his Surrealist period Dali created some of the most important works of the 20th century, but our museum's collection brings to light the importance of the late periods as well," Hine said.
Playful, with a constant desire to provoke, the Dali celebrated in this collection - though still recognizable - has a classical and historical bent, "a la Velasquez," as is evident in works such as "The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus" (1958/1959), a the painting that depicts the famed explorer's arrival in the New World as a great and holy accomplishment and contains multiple references to Velazquez's works.
Also featured are lesser-known works that showcase Dali's "Nuclear Mysticism" period of the late 1950s, when he was obsessed with contemporary science and physics and the infinite omnipotence of God.
This obsession of the Catalan painter with mathematical equations and science is captured with "Dalinian" precision by renowned architect Yann Weymouth, who is responsible for the design of the new museum.
Weymouth achieves this with a spiral staircase in the main lobby that is a representation of the DNA molecule, in which Dali believed he could recognize the presence of the Creator.
"The staircase is the perfect ... expression of the ascension to heaven," Hine said enthusiastically, adding that he feels especially proud of the museum's latest acquisition: a painting of Dali's wife titled "Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea which at Twenty Meters becomes a Portrait of Abraham Lincoln" (1976).
The work contains an element that was constant in Dali's artistic output: his fondness for double, triple and multiple images, Hine said.
During the interview, Hine used illustrations, cards and notes to convey the ambitiousness of the project, which is already in the works (construction of the new museum began in December), and the big cultural and economic impact it will have in the state.
The current museum draws close to 200,000 visitors a year and generates $60 million for the local economy, and those numbers could double once the new building is inaugurated.
Hine cautioned that an addition $9 million must be raised to finish the structure, but said he is confident that donations from the public can cover the shortfall.
The new, three-story building will cover an area of more than 6,000 square meters (64,500 square meters), with Dali's work exhibited on the third floor, and will include a cafeteria, a theater, a bookstore and sculpture garden. EFE