Detail of the Monument Pujols
Room Mae West
The World's largest surrealist object
Inaugurated in 1974, the Dalí Theatre-Museum was built upon the remains of the former Figueres theatre. It contains the broadest range of works spanning the artistic career of Salvador Dalí (1904-1989), from his earliest artistic experiences and his surrealist creations down to the works of the last years of his life.
Some of the most outstanding works on exhibition there are: Port Alguer (1924), The Girl from Figueres (1926), The Spectre of Sex Appeal (1932), Soft Self-Portrait with Fried Bacon (1941), Poetry of America – The Cosmic Athletes (1943), Galarina (1944-45), Basket of Bread (1945), Napoleon’s Nose Transformed into a Pregnant Woman Strolling Her Shadow with Melancholic amongst Original Ruins (1945), Atomic Leda (1949), Apotheosis of the Dollar (1965), Galatea of the Spheres (1952) and Dawn, Noon, Afternoon and Evening (1979).
We should also note the set of works that the artist created expressly for the Theatre-Museum, such as the Mae West Room, the Wind Palace Room, the Monument to Francesc Pujols and the Rainy Cadillac. Also to be seen are works by other artists that Dalí wanted to include: El Greco, Marià Fortuny, Modest Urgell, Ernest Meissonier, Marcel Duchamp, Wolf Vostell, Antoni Pitxot and Evarist Vallès, amongst others.
The Dalí Theatre-Museum has to be seen as a whole, as the great work of Salvador Dalí, for everything in it was conceived and designed by the artist in order to offer visitors a real experience of getting inside his captivating and unique world.
Origins and creation
The Dalí Theatre-Museum of Figueres offers a unique experience of being able to observe, live and enjoy the work and thought of a genius. As Dalí himself explained: “It’s obvious that other worlds exist, that’s certain; but, as I’ve already said on many other occasions, these other worlds are inside ours, they reside in the earth and precisely at the centre of the dome of the Dalí Museum, which contains the new, unsuspected and hallucinatory world of Surrealism.”
Salvador Dalí decided, early in the 1960’s, to construct his museum inside the ruins of the old Municipal Theatre of Figueres. Currently, the Director of the Theatre-Museum is Dalí’s friend, collaborator and fellow painter Antoni Pitxot i Soler, who is also a Trustee and the Second Vice-President.
The building of the Municipal Theatre of Figueres, designed by the architect Roca i Bros, was constructed between 1849 and 1850 but was destroyed by a fire at the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939.
From that moment, the building was reduced to its peripheral support structure. The ceiling of the auditorium had fallen in, of the boxes only the access corridors remained, and of the stage only the proscenium arch and the lateral storerooms survived. The vestibule and the foyer were the only parts that remained more or less intact. Nevertheless, the basic structure of the theatre survived, presenting the town of Figueres with a phantasmagorical ruin.
In 1961, Ramon Guardiola, then the mayor of Figueres, proposed to Salvador Dalí the creation of a museum dedicated to his work. The painter was captivated by the ghostly enchantment of the theatre, and, with the intention of maintaining the structure of the building, chose it as the site of the future Dalí Theatre-Museum:
“Where, if not in my own town, should the most extravagant and solid of my work endure, where if not here? The Municipal Theatre, or what remained of it, struck me as very appropriate, and for three reasons: first, because I am an eminently theatrical painter; second, because the theatre stands right opposite the church where I was baptised; and third, because it was precisely in the hall of the vestibule of the theatre where I gave my first exhibition of painting.”
The idea of bringing together his work in the old theatre of Figueres excited Dalí, and he dedicated himself to the task for over a decade, collaborating in it and designing the smallest details, until it became reality with the official inauguration of the Dalí Theatre-Museum on 28th September 1974. One of the most visible elements of the museum is the transparent grid structure in the form of a geodesic dome crowning the building, an idea by Salvador Dalí which was realised by the Murcian architect Emilio Pérez Piñero (1935-1972). The dome has become not only the emblem of the Theatre-Museum but also a symbol for the town of Figueres itself.
The museum today
The different collections managed by the Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation include all kinds of works of art: painting, drawing, sculpture, engraving, installation, hologram, stereoscopy, photography, etc., up to a quantity of some 4,000 pieces. Of these, some 1,500 are on show in the Dalí Theatre-Museum Dalí of Figueres.
The name Dalí Theatre-Museum covers three differentiated museum spaces, which propose a free and personal route around its rooms:
1) The Theatre-Museum itself, formed by the old burnt-out theatre converted into a Theatre-Museum based on the criteria and design of Salvador Dalí himself. This series of spaces form a single artistic object where each element is an inextricable part of the whole.
2) The group of rooms resulting from the progressive enlargements of the Theatre-Museum, where Dalí’s personal intervention is either testimonial or non-existent. These galleries are located in the Torre Galatea, are they feature several works from the Dalí legacy, as well as some of the new acquisitions made by the Foundation.
3) The gallery Dalí · Jewels, inaugurated in 2001, which includes the thirty-seven gold jewels set with gems of the old Owen Cheatham Collection, two jewels made later, and twenty-seven drawings and paintings on paper that Salvador Dalí made when designing the jewels.
The Dalí Theatre-Museum contains a wide variety of works which portray the artistic trajectory of the Empordanese painter, from his first artistic experiments — Impressionism, Futurism, Cubism, etc. — and his Surrealist creations, until the works of the last years of his life. Some of the most notable works exhibited here are Self-Portrait with l’Humanité (1923), Port Alguer (1924), The Spectre of Sex-Appeal (1932), Portrait of Gala with Two Lamb Chops Balanced on her Shoulder (1933), Soft Self-Portrait with Fried Bacon (1941), Poetry of America-The Cosmic Athletes (1943), Galarina (1944-45), The Bread Basket (1945), Atomic Leda (1949) and Galatea of the Spheres (1952), among many others.
Special mention must also be made of the series of works created by the artist with the express aim of being exhibited permanently in the museum, works which range from paintings and sculptures to complex monumental installations. Notable in this group are the Mae West room, the Palace of the Wind room, the Monument to Francesc Pujols and the Rainy Cadillac. (See them on the virtual tour)
Although the work exhibited is basically by Dalí, there are also works by other artists who Dalí wanted to include: Antoni Pitxot, Evarist Vallès, the private collection of Salvador Dalí with works by El Greco, Marià Fortuny, Modest Urgell, Ernest Meissonier, Marcel Duchamp, Gerard Dou, etc. Similarly, in different galleries of the Theatre-Museum, works can be found by Bouguereau, John de Andrea, Wolf Vostell, Meifrén and Ernst Fuchs, among others.
Since the death of Salvador Dalí, in 1989, one can also visit the crypt with his grave, situated in the centre of the museum; a space which was remodelled in 1997 in order to exhibit there a collection of gold jewellery designed by the artist.