RAA Dali & Duchamp Exhibition Review

I’ve got this obsession for Dali and its works since I can remember. I guess it all started when one day I was lazily browsing this bookshop many many years ago – I was probably 8 or 9 – and saw this hard cover, coffee table book type, with his photograph in the cover: a wide face with big crazy eyes, wide open in some sort of surprise and that moustache, that unique, eccentric moustache, that has prevailed has a symbol of the modern art and most of all the icon of surrealism.

I learned about Surrealism properly years later at school, but by the time I already knew I liked its works even though I wasn’t informed about the true meaning behind it. I love how his work transports us to another world, another reality. It’s not fantasy though. We all can relate to his works, and I am pretty sure we all see different meanings behind it. Not just because that’s what Dali works are: transcendent, deep, intriguing. But precisely because he was just trying to demystify his own fears, dreams, nightmares, his own approach to the world. And because we are all humans, we can all relate to that.

Madonna, Salvador Dalí

The other thing I love about his work is how it has touched so many different interesting matters, being my favourite psychoanalysis and metaphysics.

And finally, the thing that immediately compelled me towards Dalí: it’s eccentricism. It was surreal just for himself. And I always admire the eccentricism of life.

What is most appealing about this is the fact that Dalí wasn’t even the “true” founder of the movement. Andre Breton was, and he was also the one expelling Dalí from the Surrealist group. Why? For the same reasons I’ve got contradictory feelings towards Dalí: his apparent love and attachment to money and fame.

Apparition of Face and Fruit Dish on a Beach by Salvador Dalí Source: RAA

But who was Dalí after all? It’s hard to believe that someone has superficial will be able to create such amazing, meaningful masterpieces. And this exhibition at the RAA shows both facets of Dalí… the man praised by the crowds, the eccentric dinners. But some of the most stunning works are also there. The sort of works to which you could look at the whole day, discovering all the little details and unveilings its meaning.

Now, I didn’t know he had had such a close relationship with Duchamp, the father of Dadaísm and this was my second reason to go to this exhibition.

L.H.O.O.Q by Marcel Duchamp

I am not a fan of Dada, but I kind of like the idea of turning objects part of daily life into an art piece. Those objects we all own and look at everyday due to its use. Purely that. And that’s not fun, is it? As Fernando Pessoa once wrote, art is great because is useless. Not that I completely agree with this premise, but the truth is everything we do for a “compulsory reason” – having a job because we need the money, not because we enjoy it. Getting a dehumidifier because there’s mold on the walls… it’s utterly enfastiating . Nobody wants to appreciate the use of a toilet, more than I want to go out just to buy some cloth washing detergent.

Fountain, Marcel Duchamp

Art is an escape from that. It’s that not-so-guilty pleasure of seeing more meaning beyond the dull use of things in life. What distinguish us from any other living creature. And what Duchamp did was to try to take away the dullness of these so normal objects in our life. And this was probably why these two artists complemented themselves so well: Dali bringing the unreal, the unseen out of our lives to canvas; Duchamp collecting the so normal, so dull and turning it into something different, an artistic object, just with a title.

The exhibition explores this relationship quite well. The works were carefully selected and you’ll be able to see some of the most famous from both artists, as long as some letters and photographs.

No photographs are permitted inside. You can buy the tickets here.

P.S. I do not own the images display. Sources include RAA, Met Museum and National Gallery websites.



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