Visiting Dali? Make Sure You Call Ahead!
By Paul Chimera
Salvador Dali Historian
That timeless advice – usually reserved for dinner and hotel reservations – absolutely applies when it comes to making sure your favorite Salvador Dali painting is where it’s supposed to be.
You can’t always count on that. And unless you thrive on monumental disappointment, you must call ahead. Trust me on this (you’ll read why momentarily).
I’m reminded of this sage advice by the recent announcement that Dali’s iconic “Christ of St. John of the Cross” – the undisputed crown jewel of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum in Glasgow, Scotland – will be on temporary loan in October to The Royal Academy in London. One can only imagine the unspeakable disappointment it would mean to anyone who waited their whole life to see this masterpiece in person, traveled to Glasgow for that expressed purpose, then found it…….gone.
Trust me, I lived that nightmare.
In the 1970s, Salvador Dali’s wall-sized oil painting, “Galacidalacidesoxiribunucleicacid” was owned by and displayed in the New England Merchants National Bank at Prudential Plaza in Boston, Massachusetts. I had been wanting to see this work for many years, finally booking train tickets to travel there from my home in Buffalo. I confirmed days and hours of bank operation.
But when I arrived, I discovered to my absolute horror that the bank was being renovated. The huge canvas (also known as “Homage to Crick and Watson”) was crated in plywood and propped against the wall on which it normally hung! Despite my futile attempt to get bank officials to agree to remove the gigantic plywood cover so my journey wouldn’t be in vain, their good sense prevailed over my desperation, naiveté – and lack of planning.
The train ride back to Buffalo was an especially long and depressing one.
I will always, always call ahead now. I can only speculate on how ballistic I’d have gone had I made the ill-fated move of traveling all the way up to New Brunswick, Canada, when my favorite Dali painting, “Santiago El Grande,” was lent for the first time in decades to Atlanta’s High Museum of Art in 2010. “Santiago” is the Beaverbrook Art Gallery’s most popular work, just as “Christ of St. John of the Cross” is the Kelvingrove’s – and, in fact, the entire country of Scotland’s – favorite work of art.
Now listen carefully: if you’re hoping to see “Christ” after its exhibition in England, it won’t be a matter of simply heading back to Glasgow. That’s because calling ahead to Glasgow will get you this message: sorry, Dali’s Christ has left England en route to America.
You see, the masterpiece, beginning sometime in February 2018, is next headed to the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. I don’t know for how long – but it’s destined to be very big news.
The point is clear: your favorite Dali painting, or Dali watercolor, or Dali print or sculpture, may not be where you’re expecting it to be. Dali’s popularity continues to grow. Museums enjoy loans of his works with increasing frequency.
Plus, you never know when your favorite Salvador Dali masterpiece may spend some downtime in a plywood box.
Call ahead. Always, always call ahead.