What is Art? The Conceptual and the Surreal Collide in “Dali/Duchamp”

Discover how two inventive, irreverent individuals forever changed how we see art – and artists – as The Dali premieres its new special exhibition, Dali/Duchamp. On display through May 27, 2018, this singular exhibition is the first of its kind dedicated to the friendship and mutual influence of two of the twentieth century’s greatest artists – the father of conceptual art, Marcel Duchamp, and Salvador Dali, the champion of traditional painting and the imagination. Dali and Duchamp were generally thought to represent completely different approaches to art, but through this unique exhibition their world of shared ideas is on full display. Dali/Duchamp is organized by The Dali Museum and the Royal Academy of Arts in London, where it was exhibited last fall and received critical acclaim and high praises throughout the UK. While collaborating on this groundbreaking show, The Dali and the Royal Academy agreed to debut the pairing at their respective museums in London and St. Petersburg, Florida. This is the only opportunity visitors will have to see the exhibit in the States.

Salvador Dalí Nature Morte Vivante (Still Life-Fast Moving), 1956, oil on canvas. Worldwide rights ©Salvador DalíFundació Gala-Salvador Dalí (Artists Rights Society), 2018/ In the USA ©Salvador Dalí Museum, Inc. St. Petersburg, FL 2018.

Presented as a conversation taking place through art, this rare and focused exploration offers fresh ways of looking at these two figures, radically revising their familiar places in art history. As personalities, Dali and Duchamp were worlds apart; Dali was the self-professed genius and first modern artist-celebrity, whereas Duchamp had a quieter, subtler demeanor. Duchamp was associated with the art movements of Dada and Surrealism, and is famous for conceptual art – art where the idea of the work is more important than the completed work itself – and for creating the first “readymade,” an everyday object presented as a work of art.  In contrast, Dali was a defender of classical techniques in painting and the champion of artistic tradition. He was a surrealist and a superior technician who, like Duchamp, thought the idea of an artwork was of prime importance.

Marcel Duchamp Bicycle Wheel, 1913 (sixth version, 1964), bicycle fork with wheel mounted on painted wooden stool. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa / © Association Marcel Duchamp / ADAGP, Paris / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 2018

Despite their differences, they maintained an enduring bond of mutual admiration. What fueled this surprising relationship was deeper than their shared artistic interests – among them eroticism, language, optics and games. More fundamentally, the two men were united by a combination of humor and skepticism, which led both, in different ways, to challenge conventional views of art and life.

Salvador Dalí Apparition of Face and Fruit Dish on a Beach,1938, oil on canvas.Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT. The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund. Photo: © Wadsworth Atheneum Photography: Allen Phillips / Wadsworth Atheneum / © 2018 Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, Artists Rights Society

“We are honored by so many aspects of this exhibition,” Hank Hine, Executive Director of The Dali Museum, said. “We are pleased that we were able to find such a great partner for developing and presenting this exhibition with us – London’s Royal Academy – and we are proud that the scholarship for this exhibition grew substantially out of research prompted by The Dali. It is truly an honor to host, and share with our local community, a roomful of the modern era’s most significant artistic works.”

Dali/Duchamp is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view more than 50 works showcasing some of Dali’s most acclaimed paintings and sculptures, including three paintings never before seen at The Dali – Christ of Saint John of the Cross (c. 1951), Apparition of Face and Fruit Dish on a Beach (1938) and Two pieces of bread expressing the sentiment of love (1940)as well as Duchamp’s groundbreaking assemblages and ready-mades. It will also include the less familiar: photographs by Dali, paintings by Duchamp, and correspondence and collaborations between the two artists and is organized as a dialogue between them through four themes – Identities and a Challenge to Painting; Playing Games; Science and Religion; and the Body and the Object.

Beyond the exhibition gallery, a variety of corresponding programs inspired by Dali and Duchamp are planned, including the popular monthly Coffee with a Curator lecture series; Artflix, the Museum’s themed movies series; activities for families in The Dali’s free first-floor Stavros Education Room and more. The Museum will also host monthly Thursday evening game nights for the community February through May, as an homage to Dali and Duchamp’s love of games. The series will kick off February 22 with Drag Queen Bingo, in collaboration with Hamburger Mary’s, including a talk on the artistry and history of drag. On March 29, The Dali will host the ultimate chess game day with special guest, Grandmaster chess champion and co-author of Marcel Duchamp: The Art of Chess, Jennifer Shahade for a lecture, open games with ranked area chess players and the opportunity to face off against Shahade in a Surreal Simul Chess Game. Events for April and May are also planned.

Exhibition organized by The Dali Museum, St Petersburg, FL and the Royal Academy of Arts, London, in collaboration with the Gala-Salvador Dali Foundation and the Association Marcel Duchamp. Exhibition curated by Dawn Ades and William Jeffett, with Sarah Lea and Desiree de Chair. This exhibition contains challenging images, including adult content.