Espace Dalí is a special place. Located in the centre of Montmartre’s artistic heart, and just around the corner from the famous artist’s square Place du Tertre, the museum showcasing Salvador Dalí’s surrealist art is right at home here. Featuring around 300 original sculptures, artworks and engravings, the collection is permanent and features some incredible pieces, such as the Space Elephant, Femme en Flamme, Dalí’s melting clock and Venus de Milo statues, and an assortment of furniture items that when viewed from certain angles, resemble Mae West’s face! The museum also features temporary collections that change roughly every six months or so. The current one features a series of 200 sketches by artist Joann Sfar, depicting Sfar’s imagining of being inside Dalí’s brain, and provides a perfectly nightmarish backdrop to the sculptures and their inspirations. If you wish to see this collection, however, be quick; it ends on 31st March of this year (2016)! The museum also holds tours and various workshops, which you can find out more about by clicking on their website link at the bottom of this page.
Situated in a small and rather intimate building on rue Poulbot, which aptly translates as street of Parisian illustrators, the collection is part of The Dalí Universe, which showcases the artist’s work in major cities around the world in associated museums. This particular branch is nestled close to the streets where other celebrated artists such as Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, and many others once resided, adding to the seductive charm of the site and its unusual and striking Surrealist collection.
Founded by poet Andre Breton in Paris in 1924, Surrealism is primarily a literary and artistic movement that purposefully attempted to subvert Enlightenment ideas surrounding reason and individualism, of which Breton and his contemporaries perceived as repressive modes upon irrationality and the unconscious mind, controlling the masses. Purposefully undermining the central facets of Enlightened thinking, the goal of Surrealism was ‘to liberate thought, language, and human experience from the oppressive boundaries of rationalism,’ drawing instead upon psychoanalytical theories and radical Marxist modes of thought with the intention to free the minds of the masses from the rational order of society (Jon Mann, 2016; view source). So in effect, Surrealism intends to merge reality with dreams, the ordinary with the Other, and the logical with the illogical. The movement grew rapidly in the post-war period and incorporated many art forms such as film and music, languages, and social, philosophical, and political theories and practices.
Dalí himself joined the movement in 1926; a flamboyant renegade, he was expelled from art school in Madrid and travelled to Paris, where he met Picasso and other famous artists, developing his own distinct surrealist style in the 1920s and 1930s. Dalí also experimented with various art mediums beyond sculpture, fine art and drawing, collaborating with other notable artists and producing acclaimed works across literature, architecture, fashion and photography, theatre, and film; my favourite of these are his collaborations with surrealist film director Luis Buñuel, Un Chien Andalou (1929) and L’Age d’Or (1930), and a deck of tarot cards he designed for the Bond film Live and Let Die (1973) – no really!!
Espace Dalí is an unmissable museum if you’re looking for something a bit different amongst Paris’ other museums. Personal highlights of the collection for me include La Vision de l’Ange and Minotaure (pictured above), the latter of which reminds me of John Waters’ film Multiple Maniacs (1970)- don’t ask! My favourite piece, however, is Retrospective Bust of a Woman (pictured below), which caused controversy when it was first showcased because it featured a real baguette and real corn, a radically taboo inclusion for 1933. The most absurdly amusing fact about this particular piece is that, during the exhibition, Pablo Picasso’s dog stole the baguette, ran away with it and ate it! A truly surrealist Dalí moment indeed.
‘Retrospective Bust of a Woman’
The Espace Dalí is located at 11 rue Poulbot, 18eme, just around the corner from Place du Tertre, Montmartre’s famous artist’s square. It is open from 10am-6pm every day, and currently costs just 11,50€ to access, with concessions available. *Espace Dalí is currently included on the Paris Museum Pass* You can visit their website here.
*Featured image is of the Space Elephant. All images and words belong to site convenor and cannot be reused without prior permission!*