On another visit to the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) to see if the contemporary jewellery exhibit had been updated (not yet, it is still as described here), I unintentionally visited the Salvador Dali blockbuster. I say ‘unintentionally’, for I really didn’t intend to visit on this day, for I expected it to be quite busy given the exhibition had only recently opened and it was a weekend. However, on coming down the escalator I noticed there were only a few people in the line for tickets, so spontaneously joined to go in.
The number of people in the line was misleading – there were quite a few inside the gallery rooms, quite a few indeed. But that’s to be expected given the artist on show.
There is an impressive array of work here, though I came mainly to see the advertised ‘jewellery’. Ten years ago I visited Figueres, his home and museum, so I had seen quite a volume of his art before. The artworks in this exhibition are arranged chronologically, which is important to understanding his development and progression. It is not a surrealist way of showing it though – that would have been more interesting, would the paintings even been on the walls!
From the very first room people shuffled along in order, sidestepping from artwork to artwork, most just staying for a polite time in front of each one, in an awfully oppressive procession. This was a surrealist exhibition, so I decided to visit in a little surrealist fashion – no orderly shuffling for me. I walked around from room to room, piece to piece, in no particular order, staying a little back from the ‘orderly line’ so I was not disturbing anyone and still could see what I wanted (it’s useful being taller than the average gallery-visitor). Going against the traffic was a bit disconcerting for some of the people there – I got a few odd looks when it was noticed I was waltzing the ‘wrong way’ into a room.
Photography was not permitted, so I have looked for images of my most favourite works from this exhibition; also check out The Age site. My highlights are below:
- ‘Untitled. The first day of spring‘ 1922-23
this is so fresh (the colours are more vibrant in person) and surprisingly ‘modern’
- ‘Untitled. Gradiva‘ 1938
simple pen drawing of Gala’s standing naked body (no head), incredibly beautiful
- ‘Archeological Reminiscence of Millet’s Angelus‘ 1934
the paintings in this room were incredibly lit, they seemed internally luminous
- a study for, and the finished piece, ‘Dematerialization near the nose of Nero‘
the painting is not one of my favourites, but seeing it next to the study provides a valuable insight into the artist’s workings
- the room in which the ‘Renaissance’ period is hung is perfectly moody and impressively designed
- by this point I was wondering if the claims of jewellery in the exhibition were inflated, then I came upon the jewellery room …and was enormously delighted …
It is a dark little room, with the walls padded in rich red velvet like a jewellery box. The floor had crunchy carpet that added a strange dimension to the experience; elsewhere in the gallery the floors were bare wood, so this choice was deliberate. Dali designed the 11 pieces here, shown in little black velvet-lined glass-fronted boxes recessed into the walls; Alemany & Ertman of New York manufactured them; they are all from the personal collection of Mrs Eleanor Morse from the Salvador Dali Museum in Florida.
When I walked in there was only two or three other people there. I enjoyed the space and quiet and absence of others. I sketched each piece, while there were intermittent tides and waves of other people walking through.
Six of the pendants have a similar format, approximately 4cm round and made in yellow gold, and are all made in 1953. I liked the rough edges of ‘Bleeding World‘, shown below; and how the large topaz obscures the face of ‘Ophelia‘.
And a few more highlights after the gorgeousness of the jewellery room:
- ‘Galatea of the Spheres‘ 1952
- ‘Annunciation‘ 1956
I particularly like the description: “… composition consisting of nuclear-mystical details based on a study of the violent motions discovered inside the atom…”
[it wasn't easy finding an image, but the best I could do is here]
‘Salvador Dali: Liquid Desire‘ is at NGV until 30th September 2009.