Originally printed in the January 2018 issue of Vogue Arabia.
The late Spanish surrealist artist’s work will be on view for the first time in the Middle East.
“My family tree, my Arab lineage—going back to the time of Cervantes—has been almost definitely established.” Salvador Dalí spoke of his heritage with certitude, and for good reason. Moors ruled Spain for seven centuries (711-1492) and Arab culture permeated the population and architecture. Yet apart from his 1966 watercolor illustrations for The Thousand and One Nights tales, little has been done in the current day to unite the memory of Dalí—and his work-with the Arab people. All that will change in February. “My mentor and father, Robert Descharnes, who died in 2014, left some 60 000 photographs behind—all of which focused on his relationship with the Catalan genius,” says guest curator Nicolas Descharnes. He has selected 60 images to go on display at the Dubai exhibition.
The star of the show is “A Shower of Jazmine”—an oil canvas piece created in 1954 in New York and once in 1998 in Brazil. It’s a surrealistic homage to beauty and recalls the flowers that grew at his home in Port Lligat, Spain. The 10 white blooms are featured in levitation, save for one on the floor. There is no record as to the symbolism behind this composition, but Descharnes explains that Dalí’s surrealism serves to “express one’s anxieties, one’s paranoia, with the irrational images of the subconscious or dreams or inexplicable premonitions, in order to free oneself from it and make it a positive creative force.” He explains that Dalí searched to “go beyond the passive automatism of surrealism by involving paranoia or obsessions that are imbued with our culture. It is a form of self-psychoanalysis, but also to stimulate the public to question their own subconscious.”
Fine art dealer and exhibition curator Dilyara Kamenova says of Dalí, “He was a spiritual messenger. He transformed trauma or obsession into beautiful creations.” A must-see visit, if not to test if this homage to the Arab world’s most fragrant flower incites the “state of grace” that Dalí spent his life seeking.
Salvador Dalí: The Memories is on from February 11 to April 22 at the Conference Hall, Dubai International Financial Centre.