If it seems strange to find Salvador Dalí, who was born in 1904, as the main attraction at a museum of contemporary art, it may be worth remembering that Dalí’s impressive contribution to the 1939 World’s Fair in New York was one of the earliest examples of large-scale installation art, before the term was even invented. Incorporating sound and performance (making it a multi-media work, too), Dalí’s Dream of Venus pavilion (left, Dalí and his wife in the box office) shocked and tickled New York audiences with its odd-looking façade, its recorded sounds audible from outside, and, inside, a Sleeping Venus tableau complemented by an array of bare-bosomed mermaids performing aquatic manoeuvres in costumes designed especially by Dalí. This pavilion has now been reconstituted for this show (until June 30). The year it first appeared, 1939, was also the year Dalí was excommunicated from the Surrealist group by the irascible André Breton, who was piqued at Dalí’s apolitical stance. Breton had ten years previously championed the Spaniard as “the most hallucinatory [Surrealist] seen until now” and—somewhat presciently, though at the time admiringly—“a real menace.” Dalí lived in the US for almost a decade after the World’s Fair, during which time his fame spread and a retrospective was held in his honour at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. This exhibition, co-organised by the Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation in Figueres, Spain and the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami, features paintings, drawings, manipulated and documentary photographs, films, sound recordings, and archival documents, including photographs by Horst P. Horst, George Platt Lynes, Eric Schaal and Carl Van Vechten.
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Salvador Dalí: Dream of Venus'