Holography was ‘New House of Creation’ for Dali

Polyhedron: capturing the third dimension.

By Paul Chimera

Salvador Dali Historian


In the early 1970s, just when I thought Salvador Dali couldn’t top the amazing works he was creating at the easel, along came an article in TIME magazine that literally knocked me on my gluteus maximus.


I was introduced to an utterly new phenomenon – holography – and how Salvador Dali was the first major artist to leverage this breakthrough technology for fine art purposes.


Accompanying the TIME story, headlined “Dali in 3D,” was a black & white image of his hologram, “Polyhedron – Basketball Players Being Transformed into Angels.”

Polyhedron: capturing the third dimension.

Polyhedron: capturing the third dimension.


Now, this will sound as inane as it does naïve, but – completely inexpert on the how’s and why’s of holography – I literally believed Dali had achieved a true third-dimension on a flat surface, without the aid of any optical devices.


The strange shape of the polyhedron and the distorted images of the basketball players as seen in the TIME article had me believing that, somehow, the great Salvador Dali had done it! He had actually figured out a way to have his painted images extend from his canvas. Again, using only his brushes, paints, and imagination! Crazy, I know.



However, as I came to understand what Dali was doing at this time, I grew more knowledgeable and sophisticated – but no less blown away by what Dali was exploring for the first time in history.


“All artists,” said Dali, “have been concerned with three dimensional reality since the time of Velasquez, and in modern times, the analytic cubism of Picasso tried again to capture the three dimensions of Velasquez. Now,” Dali continued, “with the genius of (Dr. Dennis) Gabor, the possibility of a new Renaissance in art has been realized with the use of holography. The doors have been opened for me into a new house of creation.”


That new house of creation took up residence for a time at the Knoedler Gallery in New York City, a long-since defunct gallery that was Dali’s exclusive New York exhibition venue for years. I had the special opportunity to privately tour that show, which included the hand-painted “Polyhedron” master, as well as several other holograms, one involving a crystal grotto and a deep sea diving helmet with adjoining outfit.


This was many years ago and my memory of it is murky. But I do recall how, for the first time, thanks to the technology underpinning holography, Salvador Dali works were now being expressed with a true 3D effect. Crude by today’s holographic capabilities, but unprecedented and innovative in their day.

Dali did a cylindrical hologram of musician Alice Cooper's brain.

Dali did a cylindrical hologram of musician Alice Cooper’s brain.


In Dali’s own description of “Polyhedron”: “Holographic view of a room in the Museum of Dali in Figueras, containing the double portrait of Gala, basketball players in the process of becoming angels painted in the facets of a giant polyhedron, and a terrestrial glove on which are pinned Figueras in Spain and Cleveland in America, places where the two Dali museums exist.”


Shortly after Dali delved into holograms, he opened the door to yet another new house of creation – using an old concept but cutting-edge optics technology: stereoscopic paintings. Many in much larger scale than the relatively small hologram works.


Dali’s artistic mind was never far from the latest in modern science, especially when it involved optical phenomena.



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