Dalí surrealist bust going on view at Dalí Museum in St. Pete

On September 27, the Dalí Museum will debut one of its newest acquisitions, Retrospective Bust of a Woman. The mixed media sculpture is one of Salvador Dalí’s first surreal objects and explores his core themes of popular culture, death, decay and sexuality. The Dalí has one of the most acclaimed collections of a single modern artist in the world, with artwork representing every moment and medium of Dalí’s creative life. The Dalí surrealist bust will join the Museum’s unparalleled collection of over 2,400 Dalí works including paintings, watercolors, drawings, prints, photographs, posters, textiles, sculptures and objets d’art.

 “Retrospective Bust of a Woman feels particularly contemporary and joins other surrealist objects in our collection including the Lobster Telephone and Venus de Milo with Drawers, all of which demonstrate Dalí’s imaginative synthesis of separate objects to create a marvelous new meaning,” Hank Hine, the executive director of The Dalí Museum, said. “This key addition to our collection will delight visitors and renew excitement about Dalí’s continued cultural legacy.” 

When Salvador Dalí joined the surrealists, the group was in crisis. Its leader, André Breton, had just expelled several artists, so Dalí’s arrival brought a renewed energy. One of the most successful concepts he introduced was the surrealist object — an assemblage juxtaposing everyday objects in unfamiliar contexts, thus generating new ideas. Dalí explained that such objects were “absolutely useless and created wholly for the purpose of materializing in a fetishistic way, with maximum tangible reality, ideas and fantasies of a delirious character.” 

Obsessed with French painter Jean-François Millet’s work The Angelus, Dalí had just found a kitsch gold-painted Angelus inkwell. He decided to create Retrospective Bust of a Woman, an assemblage featuring this inkwell as the crown for a hairdresser’s porcelain dummy. Dalí built a type of hat for her consisting of a brimless feather cap topped by a loaf of French bread with the inkwell balanced at its apex like a totem pole.

Dalí adorned the surrealist bust with two ears of corn and a makeshift choker made of a zoetrope strip. Such strips were inserted into pre-film devices that produced the illusion of motion by displaying a sequence of drawings or photographs showing progressive phases of that motion. This particular strip dates from the 17th century and shows a gentleman repeatedly losing and reattaching his head. As a choker, it suggests a similar fate for the female bust. Amplifying the edible nature of the bread and corn, Dalí paints a swarm of ants gathering as if they are eating crumbs in the upper corner of the face. Ultimately, it appears the woman is the object to be consumed. Anecdotally, Dalí said that when this work was first exhibited, Pablo Picasso’s dog ate the original loaf of bread.

About The Dalí Museum

The Dalí Museum, located in picturesque downtown St. Petersburg, Florida is recognized internationally by the Michelin Guide with a three-star rating; has been deemed “one of the top buildings to see in your lifetime” by AOL Travel News; and was named one of the 10 most interesting museums in the world by Architectural Digest.

The Dalí’s acclaimed digital experiences have received numerous national and international awards for creative innovation.

The Museum is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to preserve Dalí’s legacy for generations to come and serve as an active resource in the cultural life of the community and the world at large. The Dalí is open daily, located at One Dalí Boulevard, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701. For more information visit TheDali.org or download the free Dalí Museum App

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