The Master of the Surreal has a unique home in a city once famous for shuffleboard, green benches and being one of the sunniest places in Florida.
While many attractions in Florida could be imagined as having surreal aspects, the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg is the only one that can fully claim that title.
Housing the largest collection of Dali artwork outside of Europe, it’s one of the most important art museums in the state.
Ranging from small drawings and sketches by the master of surrealism, the works on display grow to giant works that fill entire walls and are among the largest non-mural paintings in the world.
The museum houses the collection of Reynolds and Eleanor Morse that began with the purchase of one Dali painting in 1943. That first painting grew into hundreds of Dali paintings, sketches and drawings as well as a long friendship with Spanish artist.
Once they realized they had a museum’s worth of art, they decided to open one. The first was located in Beachwood, Ohio in 1971, but eventually they moved the collection to St. Petersburg and the Florida version of the Dali Museum was opened in 1982.
It quickly became one of the most popular art museums in the state and gain St. Petersburg national and international notoriety.
In 2011 the museum moved to its current site in downtown St. Petersburg being housed in a building designed by architect Yann Weymouth and built by the Beck Group. The new facility visually makes a statement from the water and to a lesser extent from the city. It’s located next to the Mahaffey Theater and near the airport. It’s within walking distance of the interesting shopping and eating district that sits just north of Tropicana Field. It has a nice garden area bayside and adequate parking.
It’s hard to remember precisely, but I believe that the previous location for the museum had a larger part of the Dali collection on display as well as room for visiting exhibits. Like most art museums, the Salvador Dali periodically rotates their collection so that what is on display will be partly different from year to year, or so.
The museum currently possesses some 1500 art objects and regularly holds traveling exhibitions and other art-related events. Since Dali used symbolism so heavily, there are good notes located next to paintings to help explain everything. There are also regular tours and the ubiquitous audio tours available, a cafe, and there’s a funky museum store with a bunch of Dali-branded stuff.
This could be the art museum for people who aren’t interested in art. Salvador Dali’s later works are visually interesting to just about everyone, plus they’re so filled with symbolism that it’s fun learning all of Dali’s message.