Published: March 1st 2011February 27th 2011
opened at 11.00 on 11.01.11
(written on a Greyhound going N from St Petersburg to St Augustine while a Democrat/Republican political argument and just about anything else (largely influenced by Mike Moore in the case of one participant) rages across the aisle)
My main/only reason for stopping in St Petersburg was to visit the Salvador Dali Museum there. It was only 3 hrs fr. Ft Myers so a relatively short hop. Had a late night on the Net in Ft Myers organising stuff further on, like a hotel in St Petersburg (which tends to be referred to locally as SanPete). Bus left at 11.30am and got there at 2.30pm. The small old style hotel (in the America’s Best range) was within 10 mins of the Greyhound depot which is an essential criteria for me obviously. I do miss those European walk out of the station and find a hotel situations – but these days I tend to do that on the Net only now anyway. Here the hotel recommendations in the USA Rough Guide have not been of much use as it lacks maps for a lot of the smaller places (I rely heavily on Booking.com and the integrated Google maps feature). Unless you know where
it is it makes it difficult to choose, and without a car walking distance is important – although I guess I could hop a cab to a hotel but that would mean getting one back too.
The hotel was small and nice – only 18 rooms I think – and furnished in the older traditional style. By the time I checked in and got settled had to head off immediately to find the Salvador Dali museum as it closes at 5.30pm on Sundays. Wondered about hopping a cab to maximise time there but this proved unnecessary as the walk was only 15 mins and as it turned out the exhibition was not all that huge. It is supposed to be one of the biggest Dali collections in the world, thanks to some industrialist who bought a lot of Dali’s stuff early on. It certainly has a lot of the very early stuff from the very early 1924-29 period that I am sure you would not otherwise see. His painting at this time when he was still in art school so to speak was fairly reflective of the painting styles at the time and he did obviously try different styles.
It is always interesting in such career-survey type galleries to pick the point at which the trademark surreality aspects started appearing. In a strange way there was a painting of 3 slices of bread on a plate in 1929 which almost best seemed to presage that tipping point. The gallery seemed somewhat strangely organised as you went from these late 20’s paintings, still relatively sedate, into a central gallery of stuff from the 50’s where the surreal aspects were primary. It turned out that the side gallery on the other side had more 20s/30s stuff but this was sketches, drawing and etchings.
The more recognisable surreal style paintings were relatively small but also really detailed and with some very fine brush work detail. Some of the titles were suitably out there. Such that I had to write these down: “Average atmospherocephalic bureaucrat in the act of milking a cranial harp” (1933); “Atmospheric skull sodomising a grand piano”; “Telephone in a dish with 3 grilled sardines at the end of September” (first 2 items present and correct, cannot vouch for time period!). There were then some very large paintings – like say 3m. wide by 5-6m. high - which certainly
Dali style chairs?
outside the museum
exceed the size of what you generally see– apparently he used to try to do one large work a year. I liked the ”Hallucinogenic toreador” which had rainbow type colour effects. There was a similarly large “Discovery of the US by Christopher Columbus” which was effectively quite “straight” no surreal effects at all. Similarly a large work called the “Ecumenical Council” was relatively representational and not anti-church as you might expect like some of his earlier works were. Some of the earlier surreal works more noticeable for that style. Anyone expecting one of the classic ‘melting clock’ images for which he is likely most well known would not find them here. There were I think one or two small samples. One of the attendants told me that the big one is in New York – MOMA or the Guggenheim I take it? I certainly remember years ago some fine surreal Dali works at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice.
A side gallery on the other side of the central stair well of this new purpose built building (it opened at 11am on 11 January 2011) had a lot of etchings and crayons he had done for illustration of some
Dali Museum & Mr Mink
Spanish book. There were also a lot of collaborative photos with photographer Philippe Halsmann in the USA – those shots of Dali twirling his moustache etc. And a collection of art inspired by Dali done by Hillsborough County school kids. Like most high school exhibitions, such as HSC students at home, I usually find these more interesting and honest than those by the “grown ups”.
I took some pix outside the gallery – there are some fairly distinct sandstone type rocks brought here from Spain at the coastal location where he painted when he was still an art student. The waterfront drive was pretty much all enclosed with barriers and high netting as I think there is a street car race there soon – certainly saw a truck with some Honda open wheeler race with dates on 27-28 March. Then near the Pier I decided to eat early due to 7.20am departure the next day. Fresco’s would do as prices were reasonable – better to eat a mahi mahi fish dish at c. $18 than $30+ at Fort Myers. I was going to try a conch salad but they were out – apparently conch very hard to find right
Dali Museum inside
it was custom built obviously
now – might explain the almost total absence of conch in the chowder at Key West! Not that it bothered me, but they had already run out of draught beer – waitress suggested the season was starting somewhat earlier (what about recession spending I wondered?). So I had a salad – need more greens. The mahi mahi (is it really dolphin?) was good and spiced up a bit – just as well I asked for the mango salsa on the side – which had more fresh pineapple in it than mango. Anyway that was SanPete and I am over 1000 words – so bye!
There are more photos below