While in St. Petersburg for Red Sox Weekend, we decided to visit the Dalí Museum. I had been to see this same collection a number of times in my high school and college days. Back then, it was housed in a different, much smaller building. Over a decade had passed since my last visit, and I was excited to see the museum’s new building and all the changes.
Salvador Dalí was a Spanish surrealist painter, born in 1904 and died in 1989. He is probably most famous for his painting The Persistence of Memory, which contains his iconic “melting clocks” which suggest the erosion and fluidity of time, which, as Dalí likes to remind us, is a man-made social construct.
I understand that Dalí’s work is not for everyone. Surrealist works, by their very definition, are often full of symbolism and themes that are intensely personal to the artist, and not everyone will be able to fully “get” what they are trying to say. Think of Dalí’s art as the visual interpretation of his dreams. Dreams don’t always make perfect linear sense, but the overtones, symbols, and themes can carry deep personal meaning. Dalí was a tormented guy with a traumatic childhood which often came out in his work. He was also heavily influenced by events going on in the world around him (the horrors of both World Wars, entering the Atomic Age, and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to name a few) as well bits and pieces of his Spanish heritage and culture (especially bullfighting). As a result, some of his pieces are quite dark and weird, but also extremely intriguing.
My favorite part about Dalí is that his works (especially his later pieces) often contain optical illusions. Like the painting below, called The Hallucinogenic Toreador, which can be found at the Dalí Museum. Do you see several copies of the famous Venus Di Milo statue? Or do you see a bullfighter with a green necktie?
Regardless of what you think of Dalí himself, the museum in St. Pete is very cool! You can tour the galleries on your own, with a very well-produced audio guide via a headset, or with a live tour guide. You can choose any of these options at no extra charge.
The building itself is an architectural marvel. It’s situated right in St. Pete’s scenic downtown waterfront, and behind the museum is a small, but fun, sculpture garden.
Some pics from our visit:
If you are at all into art and find yourself with a couple of hours to spare in St. Petersburg, I highly suggest a visit to the Dalí Museum.
However, a slight word of warning: I saw several very young children in the museum and it made me consider whether or not I would bring my own (hypothetical) kids to a place like this. Young children, while welcome in the museum, may not understand the mature themes of the paintings. Some of them are quite dark, and often contain nudity and strong sexual overtones. I am all for exposing children to the arts at any age, but Salvador Dalí’s style is probably better suited for teens and above. Your mileage might vary, of course, because each parent knows their child better than anyone and different children comprehend at different levels. But just thought I would put that out there…