Saturday, 19 December 2015

Art at last! We visit the Salvador Dali museum in Figueres

It seems like months since we last got ourselves to a good
Gold plated allium flower by Dali 
modern art exhibition so I was very excited to discover that the famous Dali Museum in Figueres, although just over the Spanish border, was easily within reach for a day trip. The building itself was originally the Municipal Theatre and very popular until cinema became the more favoured pastime. The theatre was damaged during the Spanish Civil War and later burned by pro-Franco troops, so I imagine that the local council officials must have been only too glad to consider Dali's offer to regenerate the forgotten space for his museum. The new Dali Museum opened in 1974 with the man himself being at the centre of its organisation and arrangements. It has apparently been the most popular visitor attraction in Catalonia ever since. The admission price of €12 for me and €9 for Dave, while steep by our frugal (tight!) standards, is very good value for the volume of exhibits on show.

For an absolutely free experience, you can just admire the
Sculpture outside the
Dali Museum 
outside of the theatre building with its huge eggs along the parapets and its pink walls decorated with golden painted loaves of bread. The repetitive design reminded me of the Casa de las Conchas (House of Shells) in Salamanca, but I didn't realise the items were meant to be bread until a helpful information plaque told us so.

There are several large statues, sculptures and artworks dotted all around the streets and squares adjacent to the Museum and the Libreria shop next door which is free to enter and has some amazing small Daliesque sculptures amongst its surreal offerings.

Our first sighting of the Dali Museum 
We had learned online that queuing is inevitable to buy tickets and get into the Museum. However I can recommend Wednesdays in December as a suitably quiet time to visit. We only had one trio ahead of us, already part-way through their transaction. This might just have been luck though!

The Museum incorporates huge spaces as well as small
galleries so we got to see works such as the amazing painted ceilings and the whole central courtyard with its vintage car, gold coloured figurines and re-situated gargoyles. A significant proportion of the exhibits are created from found objects and I love how many are repurposed to give them fun and humorous new meaning.

Dali left his entire estate to the Spanish state on his death and they promptly shipped many of the most famous works to Madrid, much to the dismay of the Catalan people. However that means that most of the work on show in Figueres was completely new to me. This painting pictured here, Phantom Cart, has incredible tiny detail and is my new Favourite Dali work. I'd love to be travelling on that cart to that city, wherever it may be! The oil painting is only 19 by 24cm - caravan sized!

The Phantom Cart by Dali (1933) 
The Dali Museum doesn't just have Dali's work. Pieces by
Rock figure by Antoni Pitxot 
other artists are also on show, some that Dali had collected himself. Our favourite of the 'other artists' was Antoni Pitxot, a close friend of Dali who was invited by him to show a gallery of his incredible rock inspired paintings. Pitxot collected interesting pieces of rock, arranged them in wire cages to represent human figures, and then painted the result. To see a whole gallery of these 'people' was a fantastic experience.

The final delight, also included in our Dali Museum ticket price, was a visit to the Dali Jewels which are housed in a separate very secure building just around the corner.  It's very dingy in the Jewels Museum, presumably so the items in the illuminated cases glitter more by comparison! I couldn't get any decent photos, but loved seeing these incredible brooches, rings, crosses and objets d'art. My absolute favourite was a diamond encrusted eye brooch with a tiny teardeop pendant. There was even a beating ruby heart too! We learned that the jewels were made by expert jewellers in New York under close supervision from Dali. Next to the cases were his original drawings of how he wanted each piece to appear.

I thoroughly enjoyed my hours in the Dali Museum and wouldn't mind returning if we are around this way again. The sheer volume of work was getting quite overwhelming towards the end so I am sure I didn't really take in everything! In the meantime, we are hoping to also visit the modern art museums in Ceret and in Perpignan so expect more arty posts before we move on again.

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