Archive for July, 2008

Double Gala Work



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I wasn’t planning on posting this week, given some other Dali-related matters  commanding my attention, and seeing as how I have lots of trip preparations for my upcoming attendance at the big Dali: Painting & Film exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which I’ll be attending, with my wife, on Sunday.

However, I couldn’t resist a few parting shots about our beloved mustachioed master!

Can you name the “double-Gala” work?

Ok, let’s see if you can answer this one: can you name a major Dali painting (not a drawing, watercolor or print) that feature not one but two portraits of Dali’s wife and muse, Gala? The answer appears at the end of this week’s short blog entry.

The Dali exhibitions just keep on coming!

Dali collectors, scholars and aficionados simply have to be delighted that interest seems to be at an all-time high in Salvador Dali’s brilliant, provocative, controversial and always fascinating life and work. Although the aforementioned Dali and film show at New York’s MoMA is surely the single biggest event at the moment, other exciting Dali-related events have recently been announced.

The National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, will reportedly host “Salvador Dali: Liquid Desire,” a retrospective exhibition of more than 200 Dalis in all mediums, beginning June 13 of 2009. It’s reportedly the first time Australia has shown a full retrospective of Dali’s art. So over-the-top Dali will be thrilling them down under!

St. Regis finally gets its act together!

I’ve wondered for many years why the St. Regis Hotel – which had been Dali’s winter domicile in America for decades – had not a single vestige of the long stay by the celebrated painter. It frankly irked me. I recall stopping in at the stately hotel in the early ’90s and seeing a large sculpture in the first floor foyer area: Woman with Head of Flowers. But then a year or so later it was gone. Nothing. No sculpture. No photos. No plaque. No hint that the grand hotel was American sanctuary for so many years to one of the greatest personalities and geniuses of the century.

Now, finally – and doubtlessly inspired by the Dali exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art  — the St. Regis is celebrating its affiliation with the Spanish Master by offering a unique package for the adventurous spirit with some money to spare.

For $5000, so it’s recently been reported in the press, you can buy a package that includes tickets to and a personal tour of the MoMA exhibition; a night in the suite in which Dali and Gala lived; a bottle of very special wine – Chateau Mouton Rothschild, which features a Dali-designed label; and a “Bloody Spaniard” – a special version of the popular Bloody Mary cocktail, inspired by Dali, of course, and created by St. Regis Hotel bartender Fernand Petiot in 1934.

An interesting side note is that the St. Regis was founded in 1904 – the year of Salvador Dali’s birth. That little factoid wasn’t pointed out in any of the press reports I’ve seen. I believe you’re reading in here first!

Ok, New York, I’m almost there!

Your Melting Times host is off this coming Saturday for several days in New York City and, of course, will be attending and reporting on the Dali show at the MoMA. Watch this space for my post-exhibition thoughts. Until then, and as always, viva Dali!

(Answer to the double-Gala question: you’ll find Madame Dali at the very top center of the great and massive canvas, “The Battle of Tetuan,” while another view of her is seen riding a charging horse in the middle foreground, with another familiar horseman – Salvador himself – to the left of her.)

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Art Basel



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JULY 20, 2008

This past June 10th thru 14th, one of the world’s most prestigious art exhibitions, Art 40 Basel, took place in Basel, Switzerland. Each year this international show features contemporary works of art from over three hundred of the worlds leading galleries, spanning every continent but Antarctica. Although Art Basel is an exceptionally well known and revered show, it makes sure to include not just the already established contemporary artists but also those whom are just beginning to emerge as well known figures in the art world.

What makes Art Basel the ideal setting for an emerging artist to premier his or her works of art is that it attracts such a wide and diverse crowd. Last year approximately 60, 000 people attended this international favorite causing The New York Times to dub Art Basel as the “Olympics of the Art World”. Those who travel to Basel find it to be a quaint ancient town situated on the Rhine River between Switzerland, France, and Germany. This ideal location makes Art Basel a favorite of not only art patrons but history enthusiasts and travel lovers as well.
The actual show itself stands apart from other exhibitions because it includes theater performances, films, and a display of literary works in addition to paintings, drawings, and other more traditional works of art. In collaboration with Theater Basel, the theater program “Art on Stage” made its debut at Art Basel in 2007 and puts on performances at each years exhibition. Art Basel’s “Art Film” is a creative outlet in which viewers can better understand certain artists through films created by and about the artists themselves. In terms of literary work, Art Basel displays magazines in “Art Magazines” and other publications created by artists in “Artist Books”. Because of this variety of work those attending Art Basel are able to not only view exquisite demonstrations of talent in several Medias but also better understand the artists behind the media.
Art Basel further facilitates this growth of knowledge by hosting forums in which attendees can have open discussions with extremely knowledgeable figures in the art world. Art curators, museum directors, gallery owners, and artists alike all gather to discuss their ideas on both collecting and exhibiting art. Those attending Art Basel are encouraged to join the forum and exchange ideas. These conversations are in part what make Art Basel so influential in the art world and help it to support the flourishing of a global appreciation of creativity.
All of these contributing factors serve as enticing reasons why Art Basel is a show that anyone, from art intellectual to art amateur, can attend and not just enjoy, but also leave with a bigger and better understanding of art today.

Catherine Brooke Ambler

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What would you ask Dali?



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If he were still with us – and you wielded the microphone or notepad?

Oh, how your humble host fantasizes more than occasionally about what I’d ask Salvador Dali, if he were still with us, and I had the opportunity to interview him! So many questions, so little time. . .

“Mr. Dali, describe how you developed superbly complex paintings, such as your huge Battle of Tetuan and Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. Can you show us the various studies and bits of research you used to create such enduring masterpieces?”

“Mr. Dali, do you ever pray?”

“Mr. Dali, what was it like to finally fly in an airplane with your manager-secretary, Enrique Sabater, since you went virtually your entire life refusing to travel by air?”

“Mr. Dali, tell me which painting you consider your very best, from a technical point of view. And which you consider number one from its importance in 20th century painting.”

“Mr. Dali, author Alain Bosquet, in his book, Conversations with Dali, once asked you if you’d like to spank Sophia Lauren, and you said no. Why? I thought such an alluring invitation would be positively irresistible to you!”

Ok, friends – what would you ask? Let us know.

“First we take Manhattan, Then we take Berlin.”

This headline features the exact lyrics of a haunting song performed by the great vocalist, Jennifer Warnes. How unwittingly prescient of her, because while Dali is taking Manhattan with the currently running Dali & Film exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, another surrealist art collection opened July 10 in Berlin, titled Surreal Worlds.

According to one online press report, the German exhibition features 250 works by Dali, Louis Bunuel, Goya, and others. It’s being held in the Stuelerbau, a building that used to house the Egyptian Museum in Berlin, and features the Scharf-Gersternberg Collection, which has its roots in the estate of Otta Gersternberg.

Meanwhile, back in the Big Apple, the Dali & Film exhibit continues to score plenty of press. The Star-Ledger newspaper of New Jersey, under the headline, The Weird and  Wonderful World of Salvador Dali, pointed up something we Dali aficionados have known for ages: Salvador Dali was well ahead of his own time.

Wrote the Star-Ledger: “…like Dali’s work for mainstream advertisers – something contemporary artists do all the time now, but that was somewhat stigmatized back in the day – the man’s innovative self-promotion did point the way into the 21st century.”

The ‘Times,’ they are a changin’

You know, there was a time when the old gray lady – the New York Times – seldom had anything nice to say about Salvador Dali. Happily, that’s changing, as more and more people – even the great and mighty Times – come to grips with an undeniable fact: Salvador Dali was a redoubtable genius.

And so, in the powerful newspaper’s June 27 review of the Dali: Paintings and Film show, they called it “inspiring,” referred to Dali’s portrait of Bunuel as “stately,” and then spent a few hundred words in distinct praise of our guy, saying Dali painted Surrealism’s “most optically precise and psychologically disturbing images.”

And this passage shows the turn-about from the days when the Times couldn’t find anything complimentary to say about the artist: “His vast pristine plains interrupted by jagged mountains, architectural ruins and variously grotesque, fraught and sexual signs of life are among painting’s most convincing portraits of the mind and its discontents.”

Finally, the Times reporter, Roberta Smith, referred to Dali’s “intensely colored” paintings that “sit on the walls like brilliant boxed jewels.” I’ll call that kind of art criticism priceless!

Taking a closer look

Guess how Dali was able to get those tall moir̩ pattern columns just right in his large canvas, Apotheosis of the Dollar of 1965? By employing the tools, resources and technology available to him during that time Рin this case a projection device. He simply set up a projector behind the canvas and projected smaller images that were magnified and transferred to the canvas via light.

It was then a matter of tracing the original image. It was a perfectly practical, logical and legitimate means to an end. And part of a painting that is one of Dali’s busiest of the large masterworks produced from 1950 to 1976. While Dali virtually wore his love of money on his sleeve with this painting, he also showed us that the master of surrealism, of the double-image, and superbly crafted painting with profound intellectual content was still as hot as ever!

And his penchant for long titles wasn’t to be denied, either, as the picture’s full title is: Salvador Dali in the Act of Painting Gala in the Apotheosis of the Dollar in which You can See on the Left Marcel Duchamp Masquerading as Louis XIV behind a Vermeerian Curtain which Is the Invisible Face, but Monumental, of Hermes by Praxiteles.

Apotheosis of the Dollar, 1965

I want to wake up in the city that never sleeps!

At long last, my better half Anne and I will be headed next weekend for New York City and the big Dali: Painting and Film exhibition at the MoMA. With notebook and pen at the ready, I’ll be recording thoughts and observations from that great institution and its even greater premier exhibition, which has been off the hook rave reviews, as already noted in this space.

I won’t be posting my usual end of week blog next week, but the week after you can expect my on-the-scene account of the big show. Plus other morsels from the never ending feast that is Salvador Domench Felipe Jacinto Dali!

Keep it surreal, and viva Dali!

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Alice in Wonderland



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Salvador Dali was especially drawn to subject matter that made a strong connection with his surrealist sensibilities. The fantasy of Don Quixote was a good example, as well as the vitality of Dante’s The Divine Comedy. Shakespearian tales, such as Macbeth and As You Like It, similarly struck a chord with the Catalan master, and the results were extraordinary.

While Dali is now considered perhaps the single greatest painter of the 20th century – together with his creative genius in other areas, such as writing in both fiction and non-fiction genres – he was also highly accomplished when it came to lithography, etching and other techniques in the medium of graphics.

An exceptional example of his creativity is the 13-piece lithographic suite,


Alice in Wonderland, based, of course, on Lewis Carroll’s fantasy journey, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. What better point of departure for Salvador Dali than a surreal work of literary nonsense, in which Alice falls down a rabbit-hole and finds herself in a fantastic realm populated by an unlikely mélange of creatures that come alive from inanimate objects or non-human species!

The Pool of Tears

for example, where Alice eats a cake that makes her grow 9 feet tall and causing her to cry and create a pool of tears, Dali’s piece is awash in tears, with just a hint in the lower left of his oft-repeated symbol of the lost girl jumping rope.

Advice from a Caterpillar

Alice asks the caterpillar how she can get bigger and he says one side of the mushroom will make her so, while the other side would make her smaller. Dali infuses his interpretation with a large, bold, dazzling insect, shown both in colossal and diminutive size, and explosive in color and impact. Once again, the girl jumping rope – which often was a double-image of a bell in a tower in many Dali paintings – makes an appearance in this lithograph.

At the famous Mad Tea Party in Carroll’s tale, Alice becomes a guest at this wild party, along with the Hatter, the March Hare, and others. The characters give Alice various riddles and stories, and she eventually leaves, claiming it’s a stupid party. Dali chooses to express this scene by giving us his most famous symbol – the iconic melting watch – picking up the all-important and persistent theme of time in Carroll’s work, and conveying a quintessentially surreal look to the unfolding action. A touch of Freudian symbolism – such as the key in this graphic – reminds us that Dali’s uninhibited imagination was deeply informed by theories of psychoanalysis, for which Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is an ideal platform.

The Queen’s Croquet Ground

Dali does a great job with The Queen’s Croquet Ground
where, in the beautiful garden, Alice comes upon three playing cards painting the roses on a rose tree red, for they accidentally planted a white rose, which the Queen of Hearts hates. The joker’s long nose is propped up by that famous Dalinian crutch, an element seen in numerous Dali works. It’s something of a throwback to Dali’s own “adventures in childhood,” where a bifurcated tree branch he used to carry around allowed him to play the child king.

This graphic suite has long been one of the most coveted by collectors, both for the timeless and universal appeal of the story itself, and due to Salvador Dali’s ingenious interpretation of it. In citing the best of Dali’s work in the graphics medium, Alice consistently rises to the top, demonstrating the exuberance and charm of his unique interpretative abilities as the highly versatile artist he was.

That versatility was seen in 1969, the year this suite was created, when Dali was near completion of his colorful, huge, and virtually career-summarizing masterpiece, The Hallucinogenic Toreador, finished in 1970 and now considered one of his greatest accomplishments ever at the easel. A few years later, Dali’s own rabbit-hole, of sorts, was his magnificent Teatru-Museu Dali (Dali Museum) in his birthplace of Figueres, Spain – a labyrinth of serious paintings and wildly surrealistic fantasies.

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Whistling While He Worked



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Heard Dali painting lately?

Next time you watch a documentary film about Dali – when he’s shown at work, which is fairly rare, but there are scenes of him painting, etching, sculpting, drawing, etc. – listen carefully. You’re more likely than not to hear a sort of ambient humming and whistling sound, usually faint but persistent, and at times fairly pronounced. That would be Dali’s nervous energy, vented in the form of a kind of buzzing bee, as it was one described by an author witnessing the Maestro at work. Dali took whistling while you work to heart!

Plagiarism? ‘On the contrary!’ declared Dali!

In some of Dali’s paintings, we find images that were borrowed from other artists’ works, or from other creative expressions. For example, did you know that the tiger (the one on the right) from Dali’s One Second Before Awakening from a Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomengranate (1944) was plucked directly from the famous PT Barnum Circus poster showing the leaping cat in the exact same pose? Check it out here.

One Second Before Awakening from a Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomengranate,1944

The bowed figures in Dali’s great canvas, Skull of Zuburan, were inspired by a 1635 painting by Zuburan, titled Die barmherziege Jungfraud. And in Dali’s 1935-’36 painting, Apparition of the Town of Delft (private collection, Switzerland), his partly surrealist landscape is clearly informed by View of Delft, the hauntingly beautiful work by Jan Vermeer, painted in 1661. See the comparison for yourself.

Skull of Zuburan

Apparition of the Town of Delft

View of Delft

Reynolds Morse once mentioned to Dali that “some timorous people looked on his classical references as plagiarism: ‘On the contrary, it is a good thing for us to remember such men!’” Dali declared.

Surrealist Success Despite an Inauspicious Beginning

Some people look adversity squarely in its not so pretty face and say, “Take that!” Then they deliver a one-two punch that has success written all over it.

That’s what Salvador Dali did. After all, consider what the young, sensitive, and impressionable boy was up against, right from the start. First, his life was preceded by the first Salvador, a brother who died of meningitis at about the age of 2. Then Dali, the future artist, was born, also named Salvador. He had to deal with pictures in the house of the first Salvador, and live with the knowledge of his parents’ grief over the first, “original” Salvador!

Then, tragically, Dali’s mother died of cancer when adolescent Dali was at the incredibly vulnerable age of 16. And finally, to confound the young man’s life even further, his father ended up marrying Dali’s mother’s sister; i.e., Dali’s aunt!

So Dali, with a young head filled with a confluence of conflicting realities that might have kept a psychotherapist busy for a long, long time, went on to take the artistic world by storm. The rest, as they say, is history. And goes to show you that, even with dicey beginnings, it is possible to become the greatest artist in history.

Cover Boy

The Gala-Salvador Dali Foundation in Spain is currently featuring an exhibition called Dali and Magazines, detailing his connection with magazines and newspapers in various ways. Check out their Web site ( for details.

This reminds me of a time when I was visiting Dali in New York, and the wall phone rang while we were in the lounge at the St. Regis Hotel (long before the days of cell phones). One of Dali’s assistants handled the call, then reported to Dali that some magazine or another was calling, interested in doing a story on Dali.

It was hard to know if Dali was sort of showing off for the crowd or not, but he hastily dismissed the inquiry as pretty much meaningless “unless they will put me on the cover,” he insisted.

Dali’s graced many magazine covers, domestic and foreign; such issues now tend to be collector’s items.

A Portrait by Dali was always a provocative proposition.

In an upcoming blog, I’m going to discuss Dali’s portraiture – a truly interesting slice of the diverse Dali pie. I’m especially inspired to do so, thanks to the recent acquisition by the Salvador Dali Society, Inc. ( of the Study for the Portrait of Mrs. Jack Warner. The ultimate oil painted from this study is one of the most detailed of all Dali portraits. Look for a glimpse into this fascinating dimension of the multi-dimensional Dali, coming soon in The Melting Times.

Portrait of Mrs. Jack Warner

Until then, and as always, viva Dali!

  • Salvador Dalí (Spain 1904-1989). One Second Before Awakening from a Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate. 1944. Oil on canvas. 51 x 40.5 cm. Museo Thyssen, Fondazione Thyssen-Borbemisza, Madrid, Spain © Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, Artists Rights Society, 2008.

  • PT Barnum Circus Poster

  • Salvador Dalí (Spain 1904-1989). Skull of Zuburan. 1956. Oil on canvas. 100.3 x 100.3 cm. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. © Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, Artists Rights Society, 2008.

  • Salvador Dalí (Spain 1904-1989). Apparition of the Town of Delft. 1936. Oil on canvas. 31 x 34.5 cm. Private Collection © Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, Artists Rights Society, 2008.

  • Jan Vermeer (Netherlands 1632-1675). View of Delft. 1661. Oil on canvas. 98.5 x 117.5 cm. Maurtshuis, The Hague.

  • Time Magazine Cover, December 14, 1936.

  • Salvador Dalí (Spain 1904-1989). Portrait of Mrs. Jack Warner. 1951. Oil on canvas. 98.5 x 117.5 cm. Private Collection © Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, Artists Rights Society, 2008
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    Lawsuits against Louis Vuitton, MOCA about papers, not art: An obscure state law says dealers must provide authenticity documents for prints

    by Mike Boehm, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
    July 3, 2008

    By bringing class-action lawsuits against Louis Vuitton North America and L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art, a Los Angeles art collector and his attorneys say they are sounding an alarm on behalf of people who shop for art prints that can cost thousands of dollars: Let the buyer be savvy, and let the seller beware.

    The suits in Los Angeles Superior Court rely on an obscure chapter of the California Civil Code called the Fine Prints Act.  Together Louis Vuitton and MOCA potentially are liable for millions of dollars: The law, at Code sections 1740-1745, allows triple damages for each instance in which a dealer “willfully” fails to provide documents that vouch for an art print’s authenticity.

    Neither suit contends that the prints sold by Louis Vuitton and MOCA were inauthentic — only that they lacked proper written documentation and therefore had their value diminished.

    In the Vuitton case, plaintiff Clint Arthur says two limited-edition prints he bought for $6,000 each were signed by Japanese Pop artist Takashi Murakami but not also numbered by the artist as promised in an accompanying certificate.  MOCA, he says, provided no documentation at all for two $855 Murakami prints.

    Charles Sherman, an artist-appraiser who visited MOCA’s museum store on June 22, said in an affidavit filed with the suit that he was told art prints did not come with certificates, and that “I would just have to trust them as far as the authenticity goes.”

    Arthur, who sued Louis Vuitton on June 23 and MOCA on Monday, said he discovered the law on the Internet after having misgivings about the prints he had purchased last winter during the “Murakami” exhibition at MOCA’s Geffen Contemporary building.

    A museum spokeswoman said Wednesday that officials would reserve comment while reviewing the suit.  Meanwhile, Louis Vuitton said in a statement that Arthur’s suit is “baseless litigation,” and that he refused the company’s offer of a refund plus interest.

    Daniel Engel, one of Arthur’s attorneys, said the suits were not just about one art buyer’s losses, but rather a consumer class action on behalf of all purchasers in a similar position.  “What does (a refund for Arthur) do for all the other people who bought them?  It would leave them hanging.”

    The law on fine art prints apparently has been enforced rarely, if ever, since it went on the books in 1970, but on paper it carries considerable clout: It specifically authorizes the state attorney general, district attorneys and city attorneys to bring civil charges carrying fines of up to $1000 for each violation.

    Louis Vuitton, a luxury-goods purveyor whose parent company reported a $5.4 billion profit last year, stuck its toe into the art business by partnering with Murakami to produce limited edition prints of designs he had made for Vuitton handbags.  The prints were sold at a special boutique set up within the “Murakami” exhibition to highlight how art and commerce intersect in Murakami’s work.

    Plaintiff’s attorneys Engel and Matthew Butterick contend that Louis Vuitton sold as many as 500 prints during the 3 1/2 month Murakami show, for a total of $4 million.  MOCA, they argue, should be held liable for any prints it has sold without documentation during the last four years.

    Engel said he wasn’t concerned the public might think the suit was bullying MOCA, whose alleged errors were ones of omission.

    “I don’t think it’s picking on them.  The focus shouldn’t be on us; it should be on whether MOCA is required to obey the law.  I think MOCA will find it’s not that hard to comply and set an example.”

    Dealers such as Sidney Felsen, whose Gemini G.E.L. workshop in L.A. has published and sold limited edition prints since 1965, and Martin Brown, veteran sales director of the four-store Village Gallery chain in Orange County, say that providing the information the law requires is good for business because it helps build buyer’s confidence.
    “The customers should know what they’re buying,” Felsen said.

    “A dealer has to be a darned fool to not provide something in writing as the the law requires,” said Joseph Nuzzolo, a Redondo Beach art dealer specializing in Salvador Dali prints.  However, Nuzzolo said, the law on art prints goes only so far in protecting buyers.  “Every fake I’ve ever seen has had a certificate of authenticity that was also a phony,” he said.
    Steven Thomas, a Los Angeles art law attorney, said only “one or two” lawsuits have been litigated under the law, during the 1980′s — although more may have been filed and quickly settled.  “Most of the time it never comes up because people aren’t aware of their rights.  It has teeth, but the teeth aren’t used.”

    Based on The Times’ initial report on the Louis Vuitton suit, “something like this could be charged,” said Frank Mateljan, spokesman for the Los Angeles city attorney’s office.  But he said police have “limited resources,” and that the Los Angeles Police Department’s art crimes unit has concentrated on outright fraud.

    “In this case it’s a little more gray, because they are selling legitimate products but the certificates aren’t as picture perfect as they should be,” he said.

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