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ALONE WITH DALI AND DUNCAN – Part 1


On my first visit to the Fundacio Gala-Salvador Dali in Figures, Spain, I was accompanied by my son Duncan and neither of us knew what amazing experiences we were about to have as guests of the foundation.

After an exciting meeting with several of the Foundation’s officers, we were asked whether we had yet visited the Teatro Museo (museum) designed and created by Salvador Dali next door to the Torre Galatea in which we were meeting. We had not, but certainly it was one of our primary reasons for visiting Dali country along with our plans to visit Dali’s house, Casa Dali, at Port Lligat and the castle at Pubol which Dali had renovated for the use of his wife Gala. All were then open to the public.

Our friends at the Foundation made reservations for us at both the museum and the Casa Dali. The line outside the former was then experiencing a two hour wait for admission and the latter required a reservation be made for a specific time to visit. We, it turned out, were to be treated like royalty.

Our reservation for the Museum was set for 11:30 that night. Closing time was midnight and we were told that we would be permitted to stay as long as we wished and would be let out whenever we told a guard we were ready to leave. Imagine! We were to be alone in the Museum and not have to deal with the vast crowds that otherwise made it difficult to get around and almost impossible to get close to the artworks and artifacts.

The experience was sublime. All of the lights were on. We didn’t see a guard or anyone else the entire time and we had complete freedom to go wherever we wished in the labyrinthine converted theatre.

At that time, the actual art collection was not as good as that at The Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida–which I had appraised three times–but there were numerous works I had not seen and many fantastic displays created by Dali. On my next visit I could clearly see that the collection had expanded.

Duncan and I had a wonderful time for about an hour and a half. I was familiar with many of the displays from book photographs and it was fun to see them in person and without the distraction of throngs of people. There was the taxi with a mannequin siting inside who was periodically drenched with interior rain. There were stage backdrops and sets that Dali had created for ballets and movies and, perhaps best of all, there was the Mae West room. It is designed to appear to be a portrait of the actress. Her hair is comprised of draperies. Her lips are the famous lip-shaped couch. Her eyes are two paintings and her nose is a fireplace. When viewed from the right distance, there she is, looking as voluptuous as in real life.

Duncan recognized a great many of the exhibits because he had been interested in Salvador Dali’s work since he was a small child. In fact, when he was four I walked into the living room one day to find him sitting in my large hand-carved rocking chair that had been custom made for me by an artist for whom I had provided some expert witness services. On his lap was the huge book titled Dali: The Work, The Man. He wailed at me, “Dad, get this book off me. I can’t move!”

He was always looking at my Dali books and later he proved to have developed an impressive eye for the real and the fake Dalis. When he was eleven, I took him to The Salvador Dali Museum and he was able to discuss several paintings with Joan Kropf the curator. Several years later, in my Santa Fe office, he looked at a fake Dali drawing and accurately identified everything that was wrong with it.

How does one, like Duncan, develop an “eye” for art? There’s only one way. Look, look, look. Duncan has spent his life looking at Salvador Dali’s art (not surprisingly) and I believe one of his best experiences was being alone with me in Dali’s own museum.

It may, however, have been topped a couple of days later when we were given the run of Salvador Dali’s house with no one else around. That will be the subject of my next posting.