In December 1965 Salvador Dalí, who by then was already enjoying global stardom, featured in several New York “manifestations.” For the opening of the Gallery of Modern Art, a packed crowd watched him paint a horse rider in real time while the flamenco guitarist Manitas de Plata and the singer José Reyes performed soleares praising the Surrealist artist’s genius. In another memorable performance, Dalí sipped from a swan’s egg as a swarm of ants emerged from within. Both “manifestations” made up the core of Dalí in New York , a documentary by British filmmaker Jack Bond in which the Spanish artist showed his worst side as an artist but that brought out the best of his larger-than-life persona.
Standing before the cameras, Dalí rattled off all those phrases that have made him insufferable to so many people for so many years: “I only want slaves by my side;” “The monarchy is the best form of government because kings like myself are elected by God;” “The Holy Inquisition should be brought back;” and more. A narcissistic egomaniac, a master of performance, a genius at advertising (“I am very busy being Dalí and I can only see people for symbolic reasons like money or publicity,” he said in a 1955 interview), Dalí has always been imitated, then as now, by other artists, including Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons.
But Salvador Dalí the artist is a very superior figure to Dalí the incommensurate performer. He occupies a top spot in art history, and stressing this point is the challenge that lies ahead.
Todas las sugestiones poéticas y todas las posibilidades plásticas, is a new show that opens on Saturday at Madrid’s Reina Sofía. This major retrospective, which includes more than 200 artworks, was previously on display at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, where it was seen by 790,090 people in four months. Without a doubt, it will be the exhibition of the year in Spain.
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