The Dali Museum, St. Petersburg, FL.
Through May 19, 2019

As an art movement, Surrealism can be challenging to appreciate, even for the seasoned museum-goer. The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, is dedicated to preserving the legacy of Surrealist artist, Salvador Dali, and making his work more accessible to the public. By adding works by René Magritte, the current exhibition, Magritte & Dali, pairs the two pre-eminent Surrealist artists and explores their distinctive approaches to art.

Theatrically curated, the artwork is hung on red walls, with each of the galleries delineated by lush red velvet curtains. Except for a spotlight on each work of art, the galleries are dark, effectively setting the stage for appreciating Magritte’s and Dali’s works.

The exhibition groups their art into six themes, which clarify the more complex motifs that appear repeatedly in the artists’ work. The themes Seeing Into and Seeing Through work cooperatively to illustrate how Dali and Magritte organized space. Dali often depicted expansive landscapes and figures with window-like sections removed. Magritte painted niche-filled amorphous objects and doorways leading to dark ominous spaces. The Nudes/Bodies theme is explored in part through their individual relationships. Dali’s muse was his wife, Gala; Magritte frequently painted his wife, Georgette.

The Double Images theme offers multiple examples of both Dali’s and Magritte’s fascination with puns and metaphors, emphasizing the importance of language to Surrealism.  Fetishism covers sexuality and gender, but it’s the Irrational Spaces theme that best exemplifies the epitome of the Surrealist movement. For example, Dali’s paintings typically depict a vast, dream-like landscape inspired by his home country of Spain. Magritte paints rooms with windows to a perfect blue sky or with openings to a mysterious and threatening abyss.

To exit the exhibition space, visitors must pass through a large room that replicates the blue sky and fluffy white cloud motif that appears throughout Magritte’s work. To encourage interactivity, a bright blue sky is projected on the walls and floor, and animated clouds slowly pass by, engulfing the viewer in possibility, and creating a truly surreal environment

Adrienne H. Lee is an Orlando-based art historian, writer, artist, and contributing writer for ArtScene Press.
Image 1: The Weaning of Furniture-Nutrition, Dali, 1934
Image 2: The Imp of the Perverse, Magritte, 1928
Image 3: The First Days of Spring, Dali, 1929
Image 4: Forbidden Literature. The Use of Speech, Magritte, 1936
Image 5: Interactive environment
Artwork photos: Adrienne H. Lee
Interactive environment photo: Mike Lee