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Kunsthalle Offers a Fascinating Dialogue between Modernism and Present-Day Art
A journalist films Salvador Dali's paintings 'Couple aux tetes pleines de nuages' at the opening of the art exhibition 'Le surrealisme c'est moi' at Kunsthalle museum in Vienna June 21, 2011. REUTERS/Herwig Prammer.

VIENNA.- Eccentric, madman, or genius? Both with his oeuvre and his provocative manner, Salvador Dalí (1904–1989) abandoned the boundaries between art and life, originality and commercialism as nearly no other twentieth century artist did. He gave form to his visions of Surrealism, the aesthetic fusion of dream and reality, which manifests itself in delusions, states of fever and intoxication or delirium, in almost all media of art, but also in the way he presented himself. Translating the principles of his socalled paranoiaccritical method and being recognized all over the world with such motifs as the melting clock, the burning giraffe, or endlessly vast landscapes steeped in cool sunshine, Dalí not only ranks among the most famous painters. He was also one of the first artists who devoted himself to design, cinema, and the sphere of mass media and pursued marketing strategies that have come to be primarily associated with the name of Andy Warhol. Dalí countered the method preferred by the Surrealists around André Breton, who strove to evoke images of the unconscious through a passive state of the ego by means of the écriture automatique, with an ostentatious individualism and reacted polemically to the group’s accusations denouncing him as a fascist and his expulsion: “I am not a Surrealist. I am Surrealism. Surrealism is not a party or a label; it is a state of mind, unique, to each his own, that can be affected by no party line, taboo, or morality. It is the total freedom to be and the right to absolute dreaming.” Surrealism was regarded as a way of living by the multimedia artist, who engaged himself in almost every field of cultural production, designed stage sets, perfume bottles and jewelry, worked with Luis Buñuel, Alfred Hitchcock and Walt Disney, shot commercials, appeared in TV shows, and made his paintings available as cover motifs to Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Country House. Dalí made scores of different roles his own and cultivated his appearance which became a trademark and, finally, a caricature.

On the occasion of the artist’s onehundredth birthday, Peter Bürger wrote: “Dalí, who died in 1989, has not found a place in twentiethcentury art yet.” The Kunsthalle Wien’s exhibition reaccentuates Dalí’s controversially perceived production in the mirror of contemporary art and highlights the affinities revealing manifold points of contact with today’s art scene: about seventy selected works by Salvador Dalí are confronted with the internationally established positions of Louise Bourgeois, Glenn Brown, Markus Schinwald, and Francesco Vezzoli. The visitor follows the exhibition’s course through a miseenscène of atmospheric rooms in which four exemplary artistic positions enter into a dialogue with Dalí for a discussion of current tendencies and variants of Surrealist aesthetics.

The work developed by Markus Schinwald specifically for the exhibition deals with perspective and weightlessness. His installation of a showcase filled with water reminds us of Dalí’s popularly surreal space of experience at the World’s Fair in New York in 1939 for which the artist designed a swimming pool with live mermaids. Presented as objects in a kind of cabinet of curiosities, the sculptures and drawings by Louise Bourgeois visualize the psychoanalytic approach to art, the unconscious coming to light in dreams. Glenn Brown thematizes the history of art and the tradition of painting: technically brilliant paintings unfolding illusionist color surfaces center on the concepts of reception and appropriation, postmodernism and mannerism. Francesco Vezzoli’s work takes its inspiration from the phenomenon of renown and relies on medially constructed projection surfaces for fantasies and desires. It is the interest in the visualization of irrational knowledge and the fascination for a world between dream and reality which the selected artists share with Dalí.

Le Surréalisme, c’est moi! continues the Kunsthalle Wien’s series of exhibitions which presents the work of major artists from the first half of the twentieth century in a fascinating dialogue between Modernism and presentday art based on philosophical, arthistorical and sociological questions in order to reassess the role of art and the artist in society and popular culture. Dalí’s still effective impulses and the visionary, often misunderstood aspects of his extraordinarily manifold production have both influenced current surrealist tendencies and anticipated strategies of the art market. An agent provocateur and taboobreaker, Dalí created his own myth and has left an oeuvre whose stylistic multiplicity and unconventional anachronism persistently question the validity of the distinction between avantgarde and kitsch against the background of new sociopolitical parameters and the concomitant change of aesthetic values.

Artists: Salvador Dalí and Louise Bourgeois, Glenn Brown, Markus Schinwald, Francesco Vezzoli

Costarring: Philippe Halsman, JeanMichel Othoniel, Eric Schaal, Andy Warhol

Curator: Gerald A. Matt

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June 21, 2011

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