Celebrating Spanish art

There are certain artists whose lives seem as overwhelming as their work. Picasso and his huge ego, Francis Bacon and his promiscuous, self-destructive life and, before them, Toulouse-Lautrec’s fascination with underground fin-de-siecle Paris are just a few examples of artists posessing a «mythical,» almost larger-than-life status. In many ways, this status is still equated with our set notion of an artistic personality. But artists find it increasingly difficult to gain a lasting reputation by surrounding themselves with controversy or eccentricity. In a rapidly changing and competitive field, professionalism and credibility, rather than unpredictable temperaments, are the qualities most sought after. Does this mean that the status of the artist is gradually changing? Although not the most obvious aspect of an exhibition on the great surrealist painter Salvador Dali, it is a question that the forthcoming display (scheduled for the end of October) at the Museum of Cycladic Art helps to raise. As the exhibition’s title itself suggests, «Salvador Dali: Singularity and myth» focuses on the artist’s legendary personality and eccentric life. In fact, the exhibition’s central work is the painting «Singularities» in which, according to the exhibition’s organizers, the artist makes a tongue-in-cheek comment about his own eccentric personality and the reputation he had gained by the late 1930s. One of Dali’s most outrageous stunts dates from 1936 when, on the occasion of the large surrealist exhibition in London, Dali delivered a lecture dressed in a diving suit, an attire that almost caused him to suffocate. For many critics, the 1930s are Dali’s most «classic» surrealist period. This is despite the fact that surrealism’s brainchild, André Breton, expelled Dali from the movement’s ranks in the late 1930’s partly because of the latter’s conservative political views (Dali was a supporter of General Franco). In many ways, Dali’s strained relationship with the surrealists added to his unpredictable personality. It is also part of the artist’s palpable mark on 20th-century art, a mark which the exhibition intends to examine through a survey of his work. Another major exhibition planned for the end of October is a large retrospective on 20th-century Spanish art (from Picasso to today) at the National Gallery. Like the Dali exhibition, it is organized in collaboration with Madrid’s Reina Sofia Museum and will last through January. Although not intended as complementary exhibitions, it is likely that each show will aid in an understanding of the other. Both are among the season’s cultural higlights.

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