Nestled in downtown St. Petersburg, FL are a variety of art museums and galleries. Any style you have a desire to see is there. One thing you wouldn’t maybe expect is to find the largest collection of Salvador Dali pieces outside of Europe. But that’s exactly what’s sitting next to the bay in St. Petersburg – the Salvador Dali Museum.
Originally part of a private collection that was started in 1942, the collection of items in the Salvador Dali Museum were donated to the residents of the state of Florida in 1977. Originally located in an old warehouse in St. Petersburg for many years, the current location for the Salvador Dali Museum opened in 2011.
This new version of the Dali is gorgeous! Around the back side of the museum is an arrangement of 1,062 double paned glass panels that help keep the museum cool and at a low level of humidity. Very important in Florida, especially since the museum sits right on Tampa Bay.
Known as The Enigma, each pane is stamped with a number; so in case something happens to a specific pane it can be exactly replicated and replaced without worry of any sort of water or air leaking in. The Dali Museum was designed by renowned architect Yann Weymouth who worked with I.M. Pei on the addition to the Louvre Museum in Paris.
If architecture is your thing, be sure to take the Dali’s architecture tour which are held every day. You can learn more about the structure, the history of how it was built and how it’s built to withstand Florida hurricanes.
Another great tour is the garden tour that takes place on Mondays at 10:30am. I was lucky enough to stumble upon this tour the day I visited. This free tour is about 45 minutes long and takes you along the garden on the back of the building and along with front of the building.
There are over 300 succulents and cacti in the garden along with cypress trees, agave plants, olive trees, papaya trees and a variety of herbs and vegetables that are used in the onsite restaurant, Cafe Gala. Speaking of the restaurant, you can grab something to eat and on a nice day sit outside in the gardens and enjoy your meal or mimosa.
After the garden tour I headed to the third floor where the permanent exhibit of Dali’s paintings and sculptures are held. There are many Dali images displayed including images that he created as a 13-year old child that are amazing.
The museum also has 7 of Dali’s 18 masterworks (images that are more than 5 feet high or wide) on display including the magnificent Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea which at a Distance of 20 Meters is Transformed into the Portrait of Abraham Lincoln (Homage to Rothko), also known as the Abe Lincoln painting. Created between 1974 and 1976 in honor of the bicentennial celebration of the United States, this mixed media work is two separate images depending on where you stand. If you stand less than about 60 feet away, you’ll see a painting of Dali’s wife and muse Gala looking out the window with the sun shining down.
Get farther away and you see a pixelated image of US president Abraham Lincoln. It’s truly amazing to see this grand piece in person and have it change right in front of your eyes. It’s much harder to see in a photo, so if you’re not seeing Abe clearly once you visit the museum it’ll make sense!
In addition to the permanent exhibit, there is also a gallery for rotating exhibits. When I was there the rotating exhibit was Magritte & Dali which was an exhibit that spoke about the relationship between Dali and Belgian surrealist artist Rene Magritte. I had never heard of Magritte before walking this exhibit but his works were very interesting, especially when compared next to some of Dali’s images.
Another interesting feature to try out is the virtual reality exhibit they have in the permanent gallery area. Put on a pair of VR goggles and you’re placed inside Dali’s masterpiece Archaeological Reminiscence of Millet’s ‘Angelus’. Dali was out there in my opinion – my favorite quote by him is “The only difference between me and a madman is that I’m not mad.” So I think he’d love the fact that you could plop yourself in his paintings and get a full 3-D look at his creations.
When I left The Dali Museum, I won’t lie – I was slightly disoriented. There was a lot going on there and his images really made my mind whirl. However, as time passed I could see how interesting and creative his creations were. It’s a museum that any art enthusiast has to go to. Since only the Dali Theater-Museum near Barcelona, Spain has more Dali works, if you’re a Dali fan or just want to get a peek at an extensive amount of his works, The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, FL is a must stop!
Tip: Before heading upstairs make sure to stop at the audio tour station and get a headset. They’re cleaned after every use (I asked!) and really help understand Dali’s thought process on some of the works. There’s also interesting thoughts from the original collectors and their children with will help shape your image of the paintings, drawings and sculptures.
Tip: Every Thursday from 5pm to 8pm The Dali Museum is only $10 to enter – that’s a savings of $14 for adults! One of the workers said it can get crowded but at that price it’s a risk to take, especially if you want to bring a couple of younger children, who only cost $8 on Thursday nights.
Tip: Don’t bring a backpack if you don’t need to. They’re not allowed in the museum, not even small ones. They do have free lockers available if you do have a backpack – lockers are located to the right of the main entrance before you go inside to pay.