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Dali's melted watches and triumphant elephants come to town

SCULPTURES by Salvador Dali, the world's best-known surrealist artist, will be shown in Creative Shanghai starting Tuesday. Zhou Tao describes the elephants on stilts and iconic melted watches.

Though the art market is in a slump, there are still wonderful exhibits in town. One of them features 21 sculptures by Salvador Dali, master of surrealism, presented by the Italian gallery FYR, based in both Florence and Shanghai.

They were exhibited at the 2009 Shanghai Spring Art Salon at ShanghaiMart and will again be shown in Creative Shanghai, a complex of galleries in the northeast part of the city, from next Tuesday through July 28.

Six are large and others are small enough to be placed on a desk. The biggest and most famous of the six, "Triumphant Elephant," stands 5.74 meters high. It will be installed at the entrance to the art fair.

The weird elephant is Dali's symbol of the future and is one of his favorite images. The elephant is often depicted atop bamboo-like legs, emphasizing the contrast between strength and fragility, much like the contrast between the past and modernity that the artist expresses.

Conceived in 1975, the sculpture is cast in bronze with a gold and brown patina. The elephant's jeweled saddle symbolizes wealth, and the dawn of a new era is announced by a flying angel, trumpeting success and prosperity.

Dali's elephant seems to represent every individual's hope for abundance and good fortune.

Another Dali icon is his melting watch. The sculpture "Profile of Time," 3.8 meters high, will also be exhibited. The work was conceived in 1977, echoing Dali's famous 1931 painting "The Persistence of Memory" in which the melted watch appeared for the first time.

As the watch melts over a tree branch, it is transformed into something like a human profile, emphasizing the relationship between human beings and time.

Likewise, another big sculpture, "Dance of Time I," 2.1 meters high, is also based on the melting watch. It was in 1979 that Dali made a watercolor painting in which three iconic melting watches were floating in sequence above the ground, to depict the fluidity of time and emphasize the inevitability of its passing.

The fluidity and plasticity of the watch also represents the idea that time varies significantly in human perception, although it is considered by many to be a precise and fixed concept.

The flow of time and its irrational nature became an obsession for Dali, and the distorted watch appeared in many of his paintings, reproduced in many prints and sculptures.

The watch also appears in the work "Horse Saddled with Time," which is 1.4 meters high.

In "La Vie Secrete," Dali's autobiography published in 1942, the artist stated, "The mechanical object was to become my worst enemy, and as for watches, they would have to be soft, or not be at all!" Dali believed that humans could rely on the conscious, non-dreaming "real" world to understand absolute truth.

In "Horse Saddled with Time," the horse represents the waking life burdened and harnessed by time. He tries to show society's repressive, restrictive nature, while the true psyche of the individual is constantly trying to reveal and free itself.

Unlike most artists who dedicated their life to one field of art, Dali took the initiative in the crossover between art and fashion, jewelry making or anything that interested him.

The concept painting for the sculpture "Homage to Fashion," 2.3 meters high, was created in 1971. Dali was celebrating his relationship with the world of high fashion through his depiction of two figures - Venus with flowers in her hair, and a knight paying homage to her on bended knee.

Dali's early career was greatly inspired by the theories of Freud on the subconscious and the meaning of dreams. Indeed, much of the surrealist movement can be seen in parallel with Freud's work.

The surrealist movement was based upon the explanation and interpretation of dreams and hidden unconscious desires. To retrieve images from his subconscious mind, Dali began to induce hallucinatory states upon himself by a process he described as "paranoiac critical," according to

Once Dali perfected this method, his painting style matured very quickly and he began to produce the paintings that made him the world's best known surrealist artist.

Date: April 28-July 28, 10am-10pm

Venue: FYR Gallery in Creative Shanghai, 2218 Yangshupu Rd

Tel: 135-2436-6672


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