HELLO, DALI

7 Jan

Special Showing at Houston’s Off the Wall Gallery

Off the Wall Gallery will display the works of legendary surrealist Salvador Dali from January 15 to 24, from the collection of friend, avid collector and publisher Pierre Argillet.  Off the Wall is located at 5015 Westheimer, Suite 2208, Galleria I, 77056 (adjacent to Neiman Marcus valet parking, facing Post Oak).  

Original paintings, copper plate etchings and rare tapestries will be available for sale for only ten days.  Christine Argillet, daughter of Pierre, who spent many summers with Dali from age 16, will attend the sale and is available for interview.  The collection boasts many of the artist’s most recognized thematic suites including Mythologie, Les Hippies, Faust:  La Nuit de Walpurgis, Poèmes de Mao Tse Tung, Vénus aux Fourrures  and Les Amours de Cassandre.  This show marks the first major Dali exhibition in Houston in nearly 15 years.  Twenty years after his death, the work continues to evoke intellectual and psychological dialogue.  Dali’s work influenced many mediums:  films, painting, fashion, print-making, advertising, writing, pop music and inspired the creation of the Pop Art movement.  

“It’s the perfect Old Testament and New Testament story.  Warhol picked up right where Dali left off – no Dali, no Warhol,” remarked Andy Warhol. Art critics and historians are now reassessing Dali’s incredible impact on not only the world of art, but as an important leader and innovator of pop culture.   

Pierre Argillet was an avid collector of works by Futurists, Dadaists and Surrealists.  Impressed and inspired by the poets Rimbaud and Lautreamont (Chants du Maldoror), he began his own spiritual journey in his early twenties and became actively involved in the cultural and artistic life of the times. He met many of the major artists of the 20th century in France and became a collector and publisher of their works.  When Argillet met Dali in 1934, it would launch a life-long friendship and fruitful collaboration as the two would produce more than 200 suites of etchings over the course of more than 50 years. 

 The Argillet Collection is unequivocally the most authenticated collection of Dali’s work throughout his career. The Pierre Argillet Collection demonstrates high standards of quality and the works have appeared in the world’s most prestigious museums:  Musée Boymans, Rotterdam; Musée Pushkin, Moscow; Reynolds-Morse Foundation, St. Petersburg, FL; Kunsthaus Zürich and Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart;  Isetan Museum of Art, Tokyo; Daimaru Art Museum, Osaka; and Hiroshima Prefectural Museum of Art, Japan.  This collection’s permanent home is at the Museum of Surealism in Melun, France and the Dali Museum in Figueres, Spain. 

Surrealism is a cultural movement and artistic style that was founded in 1924 by André Breton. Surrealism style uses visual imagery from the subconscious mind to create art without the intention of logical comprehensibility.  The movement was begun primarily in Europe, centered in Paris, and was influenced by the psychoanalytical work of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, particularly in regards to their focus on the subconscious through dreams.  

Born in 1904 in Figueres, Spain, Salvador Felipe Jacinto Dali I Domenech came to be the most recognizable member of the Surrealist group and one of the most brilliantly provocative artists of the twentieth century. His first public exhibition of charcoal drawings was organized by his father in 1919 at the Municipal Theater in Figueres.  Dali entered the San Fernando Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid in 1922.  

Shortly before his final exams in 1926, he was expelled from the academy when he stated that no one on the faculty was competent enough to examine him.  This launched his first visit to Paris where Dali met with Pablo Picasso, who would influence his work significantly over the next few years.  In 1929, Dali was invited to join André Breton’s Surrealist group because of his adept ability to access the subconscious for greater artistic creativity, which they called the paranoiac-critical method.  

That same year, Dali met his muse, lover and manager, Gala, a Russian immigrant eleven years his senior whom he would marry several years later.  Dali’s father did not approve of his relationship with Gala nor did he approve of the Surrealists, as he believed they were a bad influence on his morals.  

When a Barcelona newspaper reported that his son had exhibited in Paris a drawing of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, with a provocative inscription, “Sometimes, I spit for fun on my mother’s portrait,” Don Salvador demanded that his son recant publicly.  Dali’s mother died of breast cancer when he was only sixteen years old.  Fearing that he would be expelled from the Surrealists, Dali refused and was violently thrown out of his paternal home and disinherited thus ending his relationship with his father. 

In 1931, Dali painted one of his most famous works, The Persistence of Memory, which introduced the Surrealistic image of soft, melting pocket watches, which symbolically reject the assumption that time is rigid or deterministic.  It is reported that the idea for the clocks came to Dali when he was staring at a runny piece of Camembert cheese on a hot day. 

As the Surrealist movement became more concerned with politics, the apolitical Dali clashed with the Surrealists and he was expelled from the group during a “trial” in 1934.  He was however, included in international Surrealist exhibitions throughout the next several decades.  

At the outbreak of World War II in 1940, Dali and Gala decided take up residence in the US for the next eight years.  The same year, his work debuted in New York and he became an immediate sensation in the United States. Dali and Gala were ensconced in lavish and outrageous parties, constant media attention and held a position at the top of social circles across the United States. The Museum of Modern Art in New York gave Dali his first major retrospective exhibit in 1941.  While living in the US, Dali would also publish his autobiography, The Secret Life of Salvador Dali.  

By 1949, Dali and Gala had returned to Catalonia, Spain.  Dali’s work had expanded far beyond painting and he was moving away from surrealism and into his classical period.  He was among the first artists to employ holography in an artistic way and became fascinated by the creation of optical illusions.  Among the best known of these works are The Hallucinogenic Toreador and The Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus.  

Dali developed a keen interest in natural science, mathematics and religion, which would become a prolific theme in his work.  The rhinoceros horns that are prevalent in his work from the 1950’s represent divine geometry as they grow in a logarithmic spiral.  Dali was also fascinated by DNA and the hypercube, the unfolding of which is seen in the painting Crucifixion. 

In 1974, Dali opened the Theatro Museo in his home town of Figueres, Spain.  This was followed by retrospectives in Paris and London at the end of the decade.  After the death of Gala in 1982, Dali was plagued by failing health and spent most of the rest of his life in seclusion.  Dali died on January 23, 1989, in Figueres from heart failure with respiratory complications. 

The body of his work from early impressionism through the surrealist movement and into his classical period reveals a constantly growing and evolving artist.  His dedication to exploring the mind and his curiosity of all natural beings and science inspired work that stretches the viewer’s perspective.  “I am painting pictures which make me die for joy, I am creating with an absolute naturalness, without the slightest aesthetic concern, I am making things that inspire me with a profound emotion and I am trying to paint them honestly,” says Dali in Dawn Ades, Dali and Surrealism.  He drew from a very deep well—personally, creatively and prolifically.  

For more information on the Pierre Argillet Collection, please call 713.871.0940 or visit www.offthewallgallery.com.

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5 Responses to “HELLO, DALI”

  1. martha January 7, 2010 at 11:02 pm #

    I really love the photo you selected for this article.

  2. Dan January 8, 2010 at 5:08 pm #

    Nice to see so much press on Dali. The other comment talks about the photo in this article. The image is called “The Argus”

    Who is doing the authenticity for the works?

    • houstonartsweek January 8, 2010 at 5:17 pm #

      My understanding is that the main authentication is by the Argillet family, with Pierre “collaborating” with Dali in many or all these pieces. Some are described as coming from museums as well. I just know I’m not qualified to do that job! 🙂

  3. ajax lister March 27, 2010 at 2:00 am #

    So The Great and Original Argillet collection is once again up for sale! amazing how they kept dali’s right hand alive to sign decades after the rest of his body died….this is a fake. these are either all geclees or prints pulled from canceled plates doctored to bring them back to life. in different cities i’ve seen the same “original print” with the same series number! now with the internet, it’s way to easy to expose this garbage that’s a blight on the national art community.

    Lawerence Gallery in Portland Oregon bought an edition (how many are they selling?) of the complete Argillet collection. hep town. almost zero sold. they closed about a week ago.

    And even if it was the Original Argillet collection, that’s not something of high repute anyway.

  4. ajax lister March 27, 2010 at 2:02 am #

    …saw geclees that looked really authentic of the above not only just two weeks ago in portland, but in a lot of other cities as well….how many 7/18s (example, forgot the edition # they all have) can be out there? answer: 1

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