Florida and Dali? I never would've thought to put the two together. When I think of the Tampa Bay Area, it doesn't exactly conjure up thoughts of Spanish surrealism.
I've been to the Tampa Bay Area many times over the past few years, counting it as my second home, but had never felt particularly compelled to visit The Dali Museum, mostly because I didn't think it would be much. My Tampa-resident friend had been talking about visiting it with me for years, but having visited many other yawn-worthy "attractions" of the area over the years, I had my reservations about "wasting" my time in art museum in Florida and always opted to go to the beach instead. So we never went.
This time around, though, I had a random chance encounter with a fellow art lover in a frozen custard shop in Tampa. Upon hearing that I wasn't from the area, he told me that I had to visit The Dali Museum. He cited some of my favorite museums in the U.S. as some of his favorites as well, and said that if I loved those, I would love The Dali Museum as well. He went into really great detail about it, really talking it up, adding that when I do visit, I should really go on the audio tour to get the most out of it. And with that, my friend and I were off to The Dali Museum that afternoon.
All I can say is... Wow. My mind was completely blown. I had no idea that there was such a gem of a museum in St. Petersburg, nor did I know that it was actually the largest collection of Dali pieces in the world along with Dali's own museum in Spain. There are 96 oil paintings there, over 100 watercolors and drawings, plus many other pieces, including sculptures and videos. It was amazing.
The actual building of the museum is a work of art in and of itself.
The spiral staircase was really neat. A lady who worked there said that we should walk through them at least once
The works are divided up into two main rooms. One room is filled with over a hundred of Dali's oil and watercolor paintings while another room is filled with Dali's works of other mediums. I did the audio tour and started in the room full of the paintings first. Whenever I think of Dali, I just think of paintings like The Persistence of Memory, so I was completely blown away when I saw how huge his collection was and not to mention how skilled he was and how diverse his paintings were. This man was a true artist and seeing all of this just made me appreciate his works all the more.
Also, as a painter, I couldn't help but admire and be in awe of his skills and all of those delicate brushstrokes. I literally spent minutes staring at, inspecting and soaking each piece, getting as close as I could. Aside from the skill, I was also blown away by the subject matter and concepts of the paintings. When I paint, ...I just paint. But Dali's pieces contain so much symbolism and illusions, creating mind tricks that really make you think. It's mind-boggling to think to know that this was the way that he saw the world and to see how his history and his life inspired him. It was also really sweet to see how much his beloved wife, Gala, inspired him. She's in so many of his paintings and was definitely his muse.
Here's a small handful of my favorites. See if you can catch the illusions...
The Three Ages
Portrait of My Dead Brother
The Hallucinogenic Toreador
Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea which at Twenty Meters Becomes the Portrait of Abraham Lincoln (I suggest standing further away to look at this one)
In the second room were Dali's works in other mediums as well as photographs of Dali taken by his friend Philippe Halsman. Here are some of my favorites:
In Voluptus Mors
This is a hologram of Alice Cooper and his brain. Apparently, the two artists were friends. I had no idea!
There were also sculptures and a couple of short films that Dali made.
I ended up staying a bit past closing till they asked me to leave, not even realizing that my friend had actually left to go read in the car during the last hour of my time there. Oops. It was that good. And here's the kicker: towards the end, I didn't even get the chance to thoroughly look at and absorb every single piece in the second room, feeling rushed because I wanted to see everything there, if even just for a moment, before they closed. I was there for three and a half hours and it was definitely not enough.
Suffice to say, I highly recommend visiting The Dali Museum. My two tips for visiting would be:
Give yourself at least 4-5+ hours if you really want to get the chance to appreciate every single piece, and especially if you want to watch the two short films in the second room, which are about 15-20 minutes long a piece.
Do the audio tour. You'll get so much more out of the experience because you'll be able to see so much more in the pieces. I learned so much about the history of the museum as well as of Dali's life.
Though I have always appreciated visual art and had learned much about the man and his works in art classes, I didn't truly appreciate Salvador Dali's art and skill until I visited St. Pete's Dali Museum. Highly, highly recommended to visit, even if you're just a passive fan of Dali's at the moment.
I'm so glad that I had that serendipitous moment at the frozen custard shop.