‘Dalí Miami’ exhibit highlights surrealist artist’s sculpture

When people think of famed surrealist Salvador Dalí, more often than not it’s one of his 1,500 paintings that comes to mind. Maybe even Destino, the Disney-animated short the Spanish artist produced in 1945.

Often overlooked, but as significant in understanding Dalí, are the hundreds of sculptures he created before he died in 1989 at age 84 in his birthplace, Figueres, Spain.

“Painting is an infinitely minute part of my personality,” Dalí once said. Still, with raised Dalíesque eyebrows, people exclaim, “I did not know Dalí did sculpture.”

With the Wednesday opening of Dalí Miami at the Design District’s Moore Building, perhaps they will.

Along with his glass masterpiece Montre Molle (Melting Clock, 1971) the gouache Spring Rain (1949) and the rare intaglio The Grasshopper Child (1934), the 200 works on view will include 70 sculptures, among them Dalí’s 1964 bronze Venus de Milo with Drawers and the 1972 bronze, Winged Triton.

By comparison, St. Petersburg’s renowned Dalí Museum has just two of his sculptures on exhibit.

“Dalí is one of those artists who is somewhat misunderstood,” said Reed Horth, president of Robin Rile Fine Art, a Miami art concierge. Horth, who is curating Dalí Miami, delights in sharing stories he has heard from his friend Robert Descharnes, a secretary to Dalí who is a leading authenticator of his art.

Like the one about the way the artist would sit in the nude by the pool of his home on Spain’s Mediterranean coast, holding a glass of muscatel in one hand and manipulating a piece of wax with the other. As he gazed at the beach below, simple objects or passing strangers would catch his attention and become something grander in sculpture form. The wax shape would soon emerge as a finished work, or, as Horth says, a subconscious vision of the scene he had observed. A ship’s anchor, for example, became his Winged Triton Bronze.

“He was inspired by the world around him,” Horth said. Sometimes that inspiration would be of a more, well, physical nature.

“He would see a beautiful girl below and would say, ‘Robert, bring me that girl, she must meet The Dalí.’ He had a bit of an ego,” Horth said, laughing. “It’s a great thing to think of him in a very human sense, we sort of think of the mythology around him as opposed to a guy who had an unquenchable appetite for creation and art.”

For Dalí Miami, producer Michael Rosen, president of the gallery consulting firm Colored Thumb, arranged for a continuous screening of the 1929 film Un Chien Andalou, a 17-minute French surrealist collaboration with director Luis Buñuel. He also asked Miami chef Adrianne Calvo to recreate some of Dalí’s favorite recipes for the opening night reception.

The biggest challenge was to gather the 200 pieces from collectors in Spain, Dubai, London, New York and Los Angeles among many other places and install them in the Moore Building’s 30,000-square-foot space.

“A lot of collectors wanted to know the other names of the pieces in the show to put their pieces in with,” Rosen said. “A lot has to do with trust.”

Though they say institutions in Toronto, Houston and Chicago expressed interest in exhibiting Dalí’s sculptures, Horth and Rosen opted to launch the show in Miami.

“The art scene in Miami is ever growing and there’s a large Spanish population in Miami and he’s a big name,” Rosen said. “A lot of shows are a mix of artists, but we’re taking over the Moore Building.”

The artist, who was known as much for his flamboyant self-promotion as his undeniable genius, would no doubt have approved.

“Dalí was a showman,” Horth said, “so we’re going to give him a show.”

Follow @HowardCohen on Twitter.

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