Arts / Museums

Salvador Dalí Is Having a Texas Moment

Houston and Dallas Both Get Masterpieces

BY // 05.03.16

Salvador Dalí (1904-1989) hardly needs an introduction. One of the most iconic modern artists in the world, this gent (born after Picasso and before Warhol) with the outrageous antics and signature moustache captured the public’s imagination and to this day remains a touchstone of the Surrealist movement (as well as a performance and installation artist par excellence).

The early Dalí launched a fervor with a diminutive canvas all about a melting watch and a distended head, which foreshadowed his native country’s Spanish Civil War as well as the pending darkness of World War II: The Persistence of Memory, 1931, now in the collection of MoMA. To this day, it produces a visceral thrill out of proportion to its tiny size.

Now, two more small-scale Dalí masterpieces from that pivotal era are on view in Texas, the subject of focus exhibitions at the Meadows Museum, Southern Methodist University, in Dallas and The Menil Collection in Houston.

The former unveils a stunning recent acquisition — the only Dalí painting owned by a Texas museum and one of the most important additions ever to the Meadows’ trove of Spanish art: the 1930 L’homme poisson (translated as “the fish man” for its central figure, a man’s head formed from a school of fish). Signature Dalí-isms in the canvas include a melting watch, a lone shoe and a desolate landscape. In Houston, the slightly larger Oeufs sur le Plat sans le Plat (Eggs on a Plate without the Plate), 1932, adds eggs to the equation, while also featuring a limp watch and eerie landscape setting.

Borrowed from the artist’s eponymous museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, its showing is amplified by the Menil’s other Surrealist-tinged holdings, including two contemporary works: a deliciously creepy sculpture by Robert Gober and a Dalí-inspired watercolor portrait by Houston’s own David McGee.

“Salvador Dalí, An Early Surrealist Masterpiece,” at the Meadows Museum; “The Secret of the Hanging Egg: Salvador Dalí at the Menil” at The Menil Collection; both exhibitions through June 19.

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