Kirsten B. Carpentier
Love him, hate him, or feel confused by him, the work of Salvador Dalí (1904-1989) is prodigious and instantly recognizable. Who hasn’t seen a melting clock in their nightmares? No one can argue that Dalí’s influence in both popular culture and the art world is still being felt in the twenty-first century. Some might say he was a genius ahead of his time; others might say he was crazy; some say he was a fraud because he had underlings mass produced work for him to sign; and still others might say he was a self-promoting egomaniac. Perhaps all of these statements (and more) are true. Find out for yourself!
About an hour and forty-five minutes inland and north from Barcelona by train sits the tidy town of Figueres and a museum Dalí dedicated to himself called the Teatre-Museu Dalí.The museum is literally in a theater and seems to interact with the “audience” of visitors to confound, shock, and amaze. Dalí decided to restore the nineteenth century theater in his hometown after it was destroyed in the Spanish Civil War. Dalí spared no expense in re-imaging the theater and with his own sense of logic he filled his museum with his vast collection of bizarre and wonderful work spanning many decades. Dalí Joies, a separate museum within the complex, is dedicated to his jewelry art.
The exterior of the museum, which resembles a fortress crossed with a planetarium, is covered with large eggs and bread. Golden statues adorn the entry façade holding loaves of bread, and immediately you know you aren’t entering some stuffy-musty museum. Suffice to say, be prepared to be surprised! The enormous painting of Abraham Lincoln that morphs into Dali’s nude wife, Gala, is truly a marvel. I found the sketches in the circular hall fascinating in their bawdy but disturbing detail. Dalí’s personal favorite was a still life painting of a half a loaf of bread — nothing sinister about that…in fact, it is rather plain, if perfectly executed.
After several hours in the Teatre Museu Dalí I felt a bit disoriented. I decided to walk up to the hill to the fortress that overlooks the city and has a view of the snow-covered Pyrenees beyond. There is an obstacle training course and various rugged running tracks in the wooded park area surrounding the fortress. Even though the fortress’ museum was closed it was still worth the hike and helped to ground me after my Dalí adventure.
When I first arrived at Figueres on a sunny late winter morning, I encountered a large congregation of school children all dressed in different types of clown or mime costumes. Hundreds of kids and their teachers marched in a parade in the Figueres streets to the fortress, singing, throwing confetti, and teetering on stilts. It was such a joyful, whimsical, festive sight! This introduction to Figueres made me decide to go to the Museu Del Joguet de Catalunya (Toy Museum of Catalonia) in the afternoon. The collection spans thousands of years, however most toys are from the past two hundred years. They are well organized and documented, although I would recommend purchasing the audio explanation. Most of the toys are extremely well-crafted and yet worn with love and play. However, there is definitely a Catalan political orientation to the museum, which really surprised me. Who knew toys were political? A fresh red rose adorns the case in which is displayed a toy train belonging to a famous martyred Catalan anarchist. Toy Fascist soldiers crush the resistance in Madrid in a reenactment of scenes from the Spanish Civil War. The Museu Del Joguet gives a fascinating look into the history, culture, and economy of Spain through children’s playthings.
While Figueres is an easy day trip from Barcelona, it can also be your launching point for exploring more of the Costa Brava and other interesting towns nearby. Highly recommended is the medieval city of Girona, on the same train line from Barcelona. Haven’t had enough Dalí? Rent a car and go east to Cadaqués for the Casa-Museu Salvador Dalí. Or go 35 miles south to Casa-Museu Castell Gala Dalí, which is dedicated to his wife. Where ever you go in this part of Spain, be prepared to encounter the imaginative spirit of the Catalan people! Buses from Estacio del Nord in Barcelona.
Teatre-Museu Dalí: Pl Gala-Salvador Dalí S., Figueres, Open—June-September: daily; October-June: Tuesday-Sunday. Expect a long queue in high season! Cost: 12 Euros for adults.
Museu Del Joguet de Catalunya: Hotel Paris, Sant Pere, 1, 17600 Figueres, Tel. 972 504 585 Open—June-September: daily; mid-March-December: Tuesday-Sunday Cost: 6 Euros for adults.
As a life-long traveler, Kirsten Carpentier has been passionate about exploring new places ever since she could say, “Bye-Bye”. Her early years were spent living in Pakistan and Iran, but she has also traveled extensively throughout Europe, Latin America, and India. As a social worker, artist and writer, Kirsten has facilitated many different types of art-based workshops and support groups locally and internationally. She is the mother of three amazing grown children who have been her greatest teachers. She and her husband live in Oregon with four rescued cats and two rescued dogs.
Learn more about Kirsten Carpentier at www.ArtCreatesHope.com and www.ArtForTransformation.net