The Dali Museum (or just ‘the Dali’) is the artistic and cultural crown jewel of not just St. Petersburg, but the whole Tampa Bay area. Really, it’s the only world class artistic institution in the region (though the Ringling Museum in Sarasota and it’s collection of Rubens and baroque art is a contender, but it’s not really part of Tampa Bay).
It was my first time visiting the new building. It’s definitely a more striking piece of architecture than the bland original home, but I was not convinced that they had necessarily improved the actual interior space in terms of its ability to effectively display the museum’s exhibitions.
There were two halls open: one containing a chronological retrospective of Dali’s career and the other jointly displaying Dali and Picasso side by side to illustrate the elder Spaniard’s influence on his famously mustachioed compatriot.
They were both wonderful, wonderful exhibits and provided me with a much better understanding of Dali. But it was also a little sad.
You see, because the Dali is such an important part of the cultural landscape of where I grew up, I take a certain familial pride, not just in the museum and the collection, but in the artist himself. He, as it were, belongs to me, if you take my meaning. I take pride in his position in the constellation of great artists.
The chronological exhibition showed his very earliest, adolescent works. There were painfully hackneyed and looked like stuff from the flea market. Of course, there were also his great masterpieces, of which the Dali has more than a few. But the memory of his juvenilia stuck with me like a toothache.
The Picasso/Dali exhibit similarly, by showing the great influence of Picasso and the occasional mimicry of Dali hurt my ego.
But that said, truly magnificent works. And Picasso is so overexposed that it is always a pleasure when some curator succeeds in presenting in a new light that actually reveals something about him and his work. I’ve more than a few Picasso exhibitions that come across like little other than a thin excuse for just putting some of his paintings in the same room. This was not one of those.
On another note, that it my father and I standing in front of giant mustache, outside the Dali.