On the night of 19th February, 1939 the old theatre was destroyed by accident by a group of Franco's Moroccan recruits. As was the case with many other buildings that suffered a similar fate during the Civil War, it was left to stand in ruins during the post-war years. But Dalí, who was born in Figueres, and had been baptised in the ancient Church of Sant Pere next door had his eye on it. As his reputation grew and his genius became acknowledged the world over it seemed only fitting that he should have a showcase, a museum dedicated to his oeuvre. And Dalí, being a faithful son of Figueres, could think of nowhere better to open his museum than in the town he called home. In 1961 the town mayor accepted Dalí's offer to convert the old theatre into a museum to showcase his art. Work began under the watchful eye of the master who moved into an apartment in the Galatea Tower with his beloved wife and muse, Gala.
He planned for the ticket queue to be contained in the Plaça Gala-Salvador Dalí, and this is where he sets out his stall for us. In the way that a market-trader displays his merchandise Dalí makes a visual statement of what he is all about in this space. He's getting the crowds, who are queuing for tickets, warmed up for immersion in his surrealist view of life. Normally I hate queues, to the point where I am frequently put-off doing things because I can't bear the misery of queueing for however long it's going to take to get in. But Dalí had thought about people like me, and put all this stuff outside to keep us entertained and get us into a receptive frame of mind for what lay within. Instead of getting grumpy about how long it was taking to get through the door ... would it never be our turn ... I found myself growing more and more intrigued by the objects he'd left out for me to look at.
Right in front of the door he placed a monument in homage to Francesc Pujols, a famous Catalan philosopher, and a family friend, whose thinking Dalí is known to have admired. In a playful touch he displays the composite figure in the contemplative pose of Rodin's Thinker. He's got a huge gilded egg for a head, and just over his left shoulder sits a gilded hydrogen atom. Much as Dalí admired Pujols' philosophy he also wanted to tell us about his interest in science. This gilded hydrogen atom is one of Dalí's recurring motifs. It also appears on the facade of the museum, where it is held aloft by some of the gilded mannequins.
This monument also highlights his interest in antiquity. The composite figure is draped in a Roman toga and a bust of a Roman Patrician, on top of which a bronze head of Pujols balances precariously is also included. And the whole ensemble sits on top of the gnarled bough of an ancient olive tree, signalling to us Dalí's interest in the past and his roots here in Figueres.
Dotted around the Plaça Gala-Salvador Dalí are three statues of the French master, Jean Louis Ernest Meissonier, a painter whom Dalí greatly admired. I'm not entirely sure what was going on with the tractor tyres.
In this space I love the way the geodesic dome looks like a sphere that seems to be balanced on top of the old stage area. From this angle it's such a great visual illusion.
I also love the way in which the classical-looking statuary turns out to be a concoction of the old and the new. Just look at all those sinks and desk drawers that have been piled up to support the faces of the grotesques above.
And when you go inside to look at the art in the galleries that run around the courtyard you also get some great views down into this central atrium.
And this is what that great glass dome looks like from below. In this space Dalí has thrown in a few references to the roof of the Sistine Chapel - just look at his cartoon cut-out of the hand of God touching the hand of man. It's wonderfully tongue-in-cheek, sort of like he's taking the Mickey out of his own aspirations for this space.
Even in death Dali couldn't bear to leave the museum. A discrete tombstone in the middle of the stage marks the location of the crypt in which he was buried on his death.
|Dali's discrete tombstone is characteristically centre stage|
I've often wished that inanimate objects could tell me their stories. Just imagine what a tale this bed could tell ... . La Castiglioni was a member of the minor Italian aristocracy. On being sent to plead their cause with the Emperor in Paris she appears to have seduced him. I guess it would've been difficult for her to have been any more persuasive than that. A voluptuous beauty she was known for her elaborate outfits and flamboyant entrances. She was also an early enthusiast of the new-fangled art of photography. I think she and Dalí would have got along famously. What do you think?
|La Castiglioni c. 1863/1866|
In another apartment you can check out the Mae West room. When you climb a set of specially positioned stairs to look through a lens you see the view framed by a huge wig, and it looks like the famous actress Mae West. Emi and Mr B enthusiastically queued up to see blonde bombshell, but I'd done quite enough standing in line for one day and gave it a pass.
And also watch out for this lady who also boasts a pair of voluptuous lips.
If you'd like to go and see it for yourself you can find the website here: Dalí Theatre Museum.
All the best for now,