Posts Tagged ‘art museum’

New Dali Museum is the surreal thing

December 30, 2010

Florida`s new Dali Museum opens 1/11/11

Salvador Dali would enjoy the hoopla. To great fanfare, the new Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Fla., opens to the public 1/11/11 at 11:11 a.m. It is a beauty, both real and surreal.

January is chock full of public events to herald the arrival of this masterpiece of museums. Whenever you visit, now or later, take a docent tour. Not only are they entertaining, but, trust, me, you’ll want the explanations.

We were treated to a sneak preview of the $36 million building late December. With two weeks to go before the opening, things were still very much a work in progress, and the artwork hadn’t been moved from the current site eight blocks south. Though I loved the old museum, which opened in 1982, it was time for a step up for Dali’s art and for downtown St. Petersburg, these days a lively tourist destination.

End of the Helical Staircase and geodesic glass bubble on top of building

Many folks don’t realize that the Dali Museum here has more of the surrealist’s paintings than any place outside of his museum in Spain. The core collection was donated by the late A. Reynolds and Eleanor Morse. The new 66,400-square-foot building more than doubles the old, and the exhibition space jumps from 7,000 to 15,000 square feet, meaning more paintings, sculptures, and melting clocks can be displayed.

The building itself, designed by architect Yann Weymouth, is the perfect vessel for Dali’s work. Visitors are first hit with a view of the “Glass Enigma,” geodesic glass bubbles that front the building. From the inside, the structure, made with 900 triangular glass panels held in a steel grid — none identical — looks over the city’s waterfront.

We hope the "melting clock" bench at the old museum will make the move

Just at the entrance is the cleverly titled “Avant Garden,” featuring a grotto and bridge, hedge labyrinth, and a patio with stone pavers forming the golden rectangle. Dali loved mathematics.

Inside, you’ll walk by (or browse in) an enhanced gift shop that will hold even more items than before, some custom-designed with Dali in mind, as they have been in the past. To the right is the first Dali café, with lacy metallic chairs. In the center is another mathematical masterpiece – “the Helical Staircase” – a spiral staircase resembling a strand of DNA that ascends to third-floor galleries and ends midair with a flourish of steel.

It's always raining inside "Rainy Rolls"

Also sure to make a splash is “Rainy Rolls 2010,” a custom-made version of Dali’s “Rainy Taxi.” His original installation of a taxi that rains on the inside was the hit of the 1938 International Surrealist Exhibition in Paris. It’s been re-created several times over, and this one was designed by Alain Cerf, founder of the Tampa Bay Automobile Museum. The car is a fully functional 1933 Rolls Royce Sedanca whose mannequin driver, dressed in vintage dive gear, carries a passenger, in this case a mermaid, who is being rained on. (The water is actually coming down between plexiglass panels.) It’s an engineering and artistic marvel, and makes you realize there really is no shelter from the storm. That, my friends, is surreality.

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A museum and its art, transformed

May 28, 2010

The new expansion (photo The North Carolina Museum of Art)

I admit my bias – when the North Carolina Museum of Art was about to unveil its 127,000-square-foot, $50 million expansion, I thought, ho-hum, how interesting could anything in Raleigh be? Plenty, it turns out.

I left the press preview last month blown away by the architecture, landscaping, interior, and, oh yeah, let’s not forget the art. (I swear I was not influenced by the yummy free lunch of grilled salmon and crunchy asparagus.) The new works were impressive and the old ones looked new under a new light. Kudos to architect Thomas Phifer and the thousands of other pros who accomplished this achievement.

“In a new light” was in fact the headline accompanying a review of the museum in our local paper, “The News & Observer.”  Light is the dominant element here, from the cool metallic walls of the shiny exterior to the sunlight-filled galleries, thanks to the 360 skylights. Natural light pouring into museum galleries!? Unheard of, right? But the museum staff utilized the latest in state-of-the-art light filters to control the natural light instead of blocking it out all together. Seeing old masters in full daylight is somewhat shocking, in a good way, and the more contemporary work looks right at home.

Rodin sculptures around a reflecting pool

Outside the building are areas of beautifully balanced landscaping, reflecting pools, sculptures, including  a new cache of Rodins (some are indoors too). I’ve had about enough of Rodin, but I appreciate the importance of the museum acquiring 29 castings.

Overall, there is just a lot to love here. I could tick off a list of works on the walls, but really you need to come see for yourself. While you’re at it, enjoy the walking and biking trails in the 164-acre park the museum sits on.

Open-air dining area with Patrick Dougherty tree branch sculpture

Do make sure you leave time to eat. The food is great (even when you have to pay), and the wall of the long open-air dining area is covered with a delectable Patrick Dougherty sculpture. Called “Out of the Box,” it’s made of red maple sapling branches and boughs from the area.

We are so lucky to have this sculptor based in Chapel Hill, one town over.

Roxy Paine’s stainless steel tree outside the new museum expansion

Not to focus on trees, but if I had to pick a “favorite new piece,” it would be “Askew,” Roxy Paine’s stainless steel sculpture outside the museum. The 43-foot-tall work is one of his “Dendroid” tree-like sculptures, with branches formed from various sizes of pipes and rods. This series of photos taken during the installation is fascinating, though I’d rather imagine that the tree simply sprouted one day, like Jack and the Beanstalk, filling the blue sky with its shiny limbs and beckoning visitors to explore the treasures inside and out.