Last updated: 12:05 PM ET, Mon January 25 2016

The Intersection of Disney and Dali on Display in Innovative Exhibit

Features & Advice | Charu Suri | January 23, 2016

The Intersection of Disney and Dali on Display in Innovative Exhibit

Photo via Facebook/Salvador Dali Museum

The beautiful Salvador Dali museum located in St. Petersburg, Florida, is its own surrealist cosmos, with a sizeable number of oil paintings, watercolors, drawings and sculptures done by painting’s odd wild child.

It gives everyone a reason to hop on a plane and visit the museum right now, and meander into the streets of St. Petersburg almost as an afterthought.

READ MORE: 4 Amazing European Airport Art Galleries

Hank Hine, the museum’s energetic and visionary curator has put together an experience that is surely the first of its kind in the world. Have you ever dreamed of going into a painting, wandering into its rich, dripping corners and marveling at the light, the brushstrokes and mind of the creator?

Now, you can.

The exhibit "Disney and Dali: Architects of the Imagination," opened January 23rd at The Dali Museum and runs through June 2016.

It contains a trove of multimedia that include paintings, story sketches, film, photographs and audio of both Walt Disney and Salvador Dali — in keeping with the artists’ keen desires to embrace new media. Few people know of the short, “Destino,” on which the artists collaborated. It is animated surrealism, a beautiful blend of both Dali and Disney’s talents.

But the highlight of the exhibit is an Oculus Rift experience: the “Dreams of Dali,” which explores Dali’s version of Jean Francois Millet’s “The Angelus,” the most imitated piece of art in the world at the turn of the century. Through a collaboration with advertising agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners (best known for its “Got Milk” ad), the film transports viewers into the imaginary world of Dali: a dream within a dream.

Millet’s “The Angelus” was a widely-circulated lithograph in the early 20th century, and the piece — as Hank explained to me — focuses on the theme of piety and giving thanks for the harvest, a diametrically opposite emotion from Dali’s version.

Once you wear the Oculus Rift, you enter a desolate landscape of his Angelus, with a bleak desert landscape, screeching, swirling eagles and two dark archaeological ruins towering over us like gargoyles. We then soar through the inner workings of its towers like a bird, and take it all in under the sparkling canopy of purple supernova. Even Harry Potter would not have soared as gloriously. 

Mr. Hine’s artistic pairings are deliberate and thought-provoking. Last year, he curated an exhibit, which paired Picasso and Dali. The seed of his vision to bring together Disney and Dali this year germinated when he saw Dali’s “Dream of Venus” pavilion which was designed for the World’s Fair in 1939 (the main door is flanked by two pillars representing two female legs wearing stockings and high-heeled shoes).

Because both artists sought to express themselves through various media (even holograms), the idea of the Oculus Rift experience is a contemporary extension of their artistic working methods. “I think both artists would have embraced the possibilities of the Oculus Rift if they were alive today” he explained to me.

Virtual reality is certainly travel’s new darling. Marriott Hotels announced in 2014 that it would give guests a 4-D Oculus Rift experience to have them experience destinations like the beaches of Hawaii and even include elements like heat, wind and mist.

But when it comes to venues of artistic expression like art, the potential is still in its infancy. One thing is for certain: the exhibit promises to be a positive impact on the tourism to St. Petersburg. The Dali has welcomed 1.7 million visitors since opening in this new building five years ago.

READ MORE: 5 Lesser-Known Cities For Art Lovers

Mr. Hine’s exhibition shows us the possibilities of the future: will other galleries start offering immersive art experiences? We’ve certainly seen how art is becoming more interactive, with geocaching as one example (New York City did a Faberge Easter Egg hunt last year that married social media with art installations, to great success).

“Dali is a perfect artist for this experience,” said Mr. Hine. “Because he really painted worlds that made you want to enter them.”

The “Disney and Dali: Architects of the Imagination” exhibit opens on January 23rd. Tickets are $24 for adults with discounts for children and senior citizens. 

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