Story and Photos by Shara Johnson
The reason I went to see the Dali Museum in Figueres, Spain, an easy day trip by train from Barcelona, was because my husband and I are fans of this flamboyant self-promoter who had such a unique eye for a surreal world. I’ve seen his works in several museums around the world – mostly his paintings – including the gallery in Barcelona, but this is like a Dali Disneyland … so much to see in every corner, such bizarre variety, you kind of just want to run around like a little kid. I think if you did actually do this, it would feel not dissimilar to a weird amusement park ride, like maybe the kind that would be featured in an episode of Twilight Zone.
The museum is unquestionably worthy of a full day’s visit. If you are pressed for time, though, these are five of my favorites that I would personally suggest as highlights not to miss.
ONE: A person could make an entire post just about the jewelry gallery, which was both the most unexpected and my favorite exhibition in the museum. Dali felt that jewelry should be designed and made regardless of the practicality of wearing it. Though to be honest, I’d love to walk around wearing the heart-shaped brooch made of rubies that actually bulges out at intervals inside its gold casing to look like a beating heart.
I would also take delight in wearing this brooch of skulls, especially if my husband had given it to me as a Valentine’s Day gift. Nothing says “I love you” like a heap of golden skulls.
My personal favorite, though, was the “space elephant.” How exactly I would interface with it, I’m not sure … a necklace perhaps, or maybe I could affix it to a tiara … but I thought it was pretty cool.
TWO: Be sure to bring some coins with you and don’t be shy! Keep your eyes peeled for opportunities to slip the coins into slots on some of the artwork. As you enter the glass dome of the museum, for example, a shiny Cadillac, in the exhibit titled “Car-naval,” plays a little soundtrack through the front grill upon receipt of your coin. My husband and one British kid were the only people I ever saw utilizing the slots to experience a further dimension of the artwork. Maybe people think the slots are only part of the visual art design, but they do actually function! It’s a fun and quirky little detail; you can feel like you’re inside a seek-and-find picture hunting for the slots.
THREE: The Palace of the Wind contains a lively ceiling fresco. In the style of much of Renaissance architecture and art, you tilt your head back to take in the scene on the ceiling … but rather than illustrations of ancient Biblical stories or heavenly figures loitering calmly on clouds in contemplation, the feet of Dali himself and his wife, Gala, who often served as his muse, come crashing down from the sky as if they might stomp you to bits and pieces. (And then Dali would surely glue you back together in the most unlikely of configurations.)
FOUR: The Mae West room might be the most famous part of the museum, and you will likely have to stand in line to ascend the stairs and look out at the scene from the vantage point Dali intended, but it’s fun and I don’t think overrated. I mean, how many artists can create a famous visage out of apartment furniture? The viewing platform provides the hair to frame the apartment into a face. It looks cool in a photo, but you can’t grasp the scale of it without experiencing it first hand.
FIVE: While his paintings are the most renowned facet of the body of Dali’s 2-dimensional artwork, there is quite a sizeable collection of drawings and sketches on display in Figueres. Because of the relative rarity of these works in other museums, I think it’s very worthwhile to check them out here.
The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday. Museum hours vary with season, the most restricted hours in November through February at 10:30 to 18:00, and open longer in the summer. In August the museum even opens late at night. The admission price is surprisingly affordable at 7 Euro for an adult ticket. I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more surreal and enjoyable experience for such a price, brought to you by one of the most legendary figures in the sphere of modern art.
About the Author: Shara Johnson plots her travels from her home in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. You can follow her adventures abroad at SKJtravel.net, her next trip is Iran in April 2014. You can friend her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.