Dalí Theatre-Museum. History

The world's largest surrealist object

Inaugurated in 1974, the Dalí Theatre-Museum rises on the remains of the former Municipal Theatre of Figueres and is considered to be the last great work of Salvador Dalí. Everything in it was conceived and designed by the artist so as to offer visitors a real experience and draw them into his unique and captivating world.

The Dalí Theatre-Museum's collection allows spectators to capture the artistic journey of Salvador Dalí (1904-1989) through the broadest spectrum of works. The route around the galleries allows visitors to capture his first artistic experiences, surrealism, nuclear mystique and passion for science, taking them finally to the works of the last part of his life.

The visit to the museum stands as a unique experience, allowing visitors to experience and enjoy the genius's work and thought. In the words of Dalí himself: "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".

Origins and creation

The embryo of the Theatre-Museum project arose at the beginning of the 'sixties. Ramon Guardiola, mayor of Figueres at the time, asked Salvador Dalí to donate a work for the Museu de l'Empordà.  Dalí's reply came quickly: he would donate to Figueres not just a single work, but an entire 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 place in which the Dalinian project was to be located, at the express wish of the artist, was the former Municipal Theatre of Figueres. Destroyed in a fire at the end of the Spanish Civil War, the building had been reduced to its peripheral structure. The ceiling of the orchestra pit had collapsed; of the boxes there remained only the access corridors to them and to the stage, the arch of the stage mouth and the side stores; the entrance hall and the rest room were the only parts that remained more or less intact. The artist planned to take advantage of the spectral charm offered by the ruins of the former theatre in order to house the future museum.

From the 'seventies, Dalí devoted his entire attention to the museum project, taking part in it and designing its tiniest details, until it came into reality with the official inauguration of the Dalí Theatre-Museum on 28 September 1974. One of the most noticeable features of the museum, the transparent reticular-shape like a geodesic dome that crowns the building, was entrusted by Salvador Dalí to the Murcian architect Emilio Pérez Piñero (1935-1972). That dome has now become the emblem of the Theatre-Museum and a great icon for the city of Figueres.

The Museum today

The various collections of the Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí include all types of works of art: paintings, drawings, sculptures, engravings, installations, holograms, stereoscopes, photography, etc. Of them, some 1,500 are on exhibition at the Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres. 

Three clearly differentiated museum areas offer visitors an unguided, personal route around the various galleries of the Dalí Theatre-Museum:

1) The Theatre-Museum as such, refurbished from the old fire-damaged municipal theatre, converted into the Theatre-Museum based on the criteria and design of Salvador Dalí himself. This set of zones forms a unique artistic object in which each element is an inseparable part of the whole. 

2) The group of galleries resulting from the progressive extensions made to the Theatre-Museum, in which Dalí's personal intervention is testimonial or non-existent. These galleries contain many works from the artist's legacy, the stereoscopic works and installations, the anamorphisms, as well as the Foundation's new acquisitions. 

3) The Dalí·Joies exhibition rooms, inaugurated in 2001, containing the thirty-seven gold jewels and precious stones from the former Owen Cheatham collection, two jewels made later and the prior designs made by the painter. 

The Dalí Theatre-Museum contains a wide spectrum of works that describe the artistic trajectory of the Empordà county artist, ranging from his first artistic experiences (impressionism, futurism, cubism, etc.) and his surrealist creations, down to the last years of his life. Some of the most outstanding works on display there are Self-Portrait with l'Humanité (1923), Port Alguer (1924), The Spectre of Sex-Appeal (1932), Portrait of Gala with Two Chops Balanced on Her Shoulder (1933), Soft self-portrait with grilled bacon (1941), Poetry of America / The Cosmic Athletes (1943), Galarina (1944-45), The Basket of Bread (1945), Leda Atomica (1949) and Galatea of the Spheres (1952), among many others. 

We should also highlight the set of works the artist created for the express purpose of permanently exhibiting them at the museum, works which ranged from paintings and sculptures through to complex monumental installations. Outstanding within this group are the Mae West Room, the Wind Palace gallery, the Monument to Francesc Pujols and the Rainy Cadillac (for which you can carry out a virtual visit). 

Aside from Salvador Dalí, we find works by other artists whom the painter invited to place works on exhibition in his museum, such as Antoni Pitxot and Evarist Vallès, accompanied by others from the painter's own private collection, such as El Greco, Marià Fortuny, Modest Urgell, Ernest Meissonier, Marcel Duchamp, Gerard Dou and Bouguereau.  In various zones of the Theatre-Museum we can also find works by John de Andrea, Wolf Vostell, Meifrén and Ernst Fuchs. Following Salvador Dalí's death in 1989, the crypt with his tomb, located at the centre of the museum, can also be visited; this zone was remodelled in 1997 to exhibit a collection of gold jewels designed by the artist.

Picture of the dome of Dalí's Theatre-Museum, opened in 1974. It stands on the remains of the ancient Municipal Theater in Figueres.

A photograph of the Cadillac's installation at the courtyard of the Theatre-Museum Dalí in Figueres.

A photograph of Gala's boat installation at the courtyard of the Theatre-Museum Dalí in Figueres.

Picture of Salvador Dalí at the courtyard under construction of the Theatre-Museum in Figueres. There are some of the artist's works behind his figure

Painting and drawing masterclass given by Salvador Dalí and Antoni Pitxot i Soler on the Theatre-Museum in Figueres.