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Celebrating 100 years of surreal Dalí


WORLD-wide celebrations kicked off in earnest this week for the centenary of Salvador Dalí. They will range from museums in Barcelona, the United States, and the Netherlands to his childhood home of Figueres, in Catalonia.

But the 100th anniversary of Dalí’s birth will pass quietly at the home of one of his most famous works. The St Mungo’s Museum of Religious Life and Art in Glasgow has no plans to mark his birthday, 11 May.

The museum attracts more than 185,000 visitors a year from Scotland and overseas, many of them undoubtedly drawn by the picture that has pride of place, Christ of St John of the Cross.

The 1951 painting ranks with 1931’s The Persistence of Memory, also known as The Limp Watches, as one of the landmarks of the surrealist painter.

"We have got a whole lot of other exhibitions and other things that we are working on," said Harry Dunlop, the St Mungo manager, yesterday. "There’s nothing planned."

Barcelona this week is staging the first of a string of Dalí offerings for 2004. "Salvador Dalí and Mass Culture" showcases many of the artist’s lesser-known works, including drawings, photographs, manuscripts, postcards and films. The exhibition will then tour to Madrid, Rotterdam, and the Dalí Museum in Florida.

The artist’s fascination with Don Quixote is the theme of another exhibition set for La Pera, in Catalonia, with sketches and watercolours drawing their inspiration from Cervantes’ classic Spanish novel. And from June to September, the Miró Foundation in Barcelona will highlight Dalí’s role in the Yellow Manifesto, the avant-garde art world’s 1928 challenge to the cultural establishment of the day.

Other exhibitions in Spain will look at the science behind the optical illusions in Dalí’s art; at his long admiration for his fellow Catalan, Antoni Gaudí, the architect; and his friendship with the poet Federico García Lorca, killed in the Spanish Civil War. His beloved home-town of Figueres will host "Intimate memories: the childhood and youth of Salvador Dalí".

Glasgow City Council stressed yesterday that there are no plans to move the Dalí painting back to its long-time home, the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, when it reopens after refurbishment in 2006.

Lord Macfarlane of Bearsden, the head of a refurbishment appeal that has raised more than £3 million, has made plain his wish that it be returned.

Lord Macfarlane and Neil McGregor, the director of the British Museum, are among those said to have been inspired by the sight of the painting hanging in its former home.

But a council spokesman said that with the opening of St Mungo’s in 1993, the Dalí was given a prime place in Glasgow’s historic centre. "It’s been very impressively displayed there for visitors," he said.

The image of Christ is painted as if the artist is looking down from above the cross, and a viewing platform in the museum skilfully exploits the effect.

"The council is keen that the Dalí continues to be displayed there and Kelvingrove is not an option at the present time anyway," the spokesman added.

The Scotsman
Fri 6 Feb 2004