Hello Dali

The Arts

salvador-dali-ruby-lips

I once met Salvador Dali. It was – no surprise here – a completely unexpected experience. In the 1970s the great surrealist came to London to arrange for the sale of a set of limited edition etchings based on the travels of Don Quixote. I attended a meeting between him, his UK agent and some useless agency types who were keen to meet someone famous, and the agency’s chairman brought his son along. It was one of those meet-and-greets that periodically occur in the media business, and involve someone famous that everyone feels they should meet, like David Beckham. When networks are trying to flog reruns of Baywatch, they wheel out David Hasselhoff to excite the execs with a bit of rusty stardust.

Apart from his excessively luxuriant moustache (not pointing upright), Dali looked like an elegant European businessman, and sat silently in a grey suit slumped in a corner of the table, bored, while the media folk spouted fawning rubbish. At the end of the meeting, Dali rose and went over to the chairman’s son, handing him the notepad on which he’d been scrawling throughout the meeting. He had been making drawings of the boy from every angle. He signed them, gave them to the child and left with a wink, ignoring everyone else. I admired him for that.

In Figueras I went to the Dali museum and saw his jewellery. Some of the pieces pulse and transform, like the crystal-encrusted heart that beats. Many of the pieces have been turned into rather good costume jewellery that’s inexpensive to buy. Did critics attack him because he combined elements of business and showmanship with his art?

Right now US dealers are betting that Damien Hirst’s stock will rise because he has cut out the middle-man and has been dealing directly with buyers – the difference for me being that after visiting many shows by both artists, Dali combined elements of his background geography and dreams to create deeply Spanish visions, whereas there’s nothing in Hirst to reveal anything of himself, and very little to reveal that he has any talent at all. Thinking about it, all of my favourite artists and writers reveal something either inadvertently or deliberately of themselves. Surely it’s impossible for a talented artist not to?

NB I always wondered if the Ruby Lips brooch inspired The Rocky Horror Show.

5 comments on “Hello Dali”

  1. Tom Ruffles says:

    Actually the lips put me in mind of Beckett’s ‘Not I’.

  2. Jo W says:

    Always liked Dali’s work. But I couldn’t tell you why.

  3. Roger says:

    ” the agency’s chairman brought his nephew along…. Dali rose and went over to the chairman’s son, handing him the notepad on which he’d been…making drawings of the boy from every angle”

    Son or nephew?

  4. admin says:

    Thank you for that, Roger. We’ll put you in charge of proofreading all future posts written on the hoof in airport lounges, written with a fluctuating wifi signal, just because your host made a promise years ago to post something every single day no matter what!

  5. Roger says:

    Ouch!
    All the same, it reveals different aspects of the chairman’s character if it’s his son he brings or his nephew – even more so if he isn’t sure which it is either.

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