Salvador Dali, the man most famous for his melting clocks, has undoubtedly awed the likes of art students around the world since his works were published. While we’ve had to learn about him and his paintings in art history lessons, history has never really focused on the wonderful relationship he had with his publisher, Pierre Argillet, and the friendship between them. As such, when the world lost this renowned painter in 1989, it is doubtful that most would wonder about his publisher and what became of him.
As an artist and an avid collector of Futurist, Dadaist and Surrealist works, Argillet had counted Marcel Duchamp and Jean Arp among his acquaintances, but it was only with Dali that a long and fruitful collaboration had developed. Since Dali and Argillet met in the 1940s, they have both produced nearly 200 etchings together over a 30-year period before parting ways in the mid-1970s. This is not to say, however, that they parted on a bad note, as they remained friends until Dali had breathed his last.
During their 30 years of collaboration, the duo had produced a unique anthology of works, which will be featured in Singapore’s REDSEA Gallery from 11 September to 5 October 2016, titled Salvador Dali & Pierre Argillet: Thirty years of collaboration. This exhibition will showcase a selection of Dali’s etchings and drawings, alongside porcelain works and tapestries previously unseen in Singapore, as well as the first ever public display of two original copper plates. All works from the Pierre Argillet Collection have been authenticated and signed by Dali, and will be available for viewing and acquisition during the exhibition period.
In this exhibition, Dali’s open-mindedness and innate ability to embrace a plethora of topics and themes are demonstrated in his etchings and drawings, which address different topics, from religion to eroticism. Although this collection has made its way to multiple museums around the world, it claims permanent residence at the Museum of Surrealism, Château de Vaux-le-Pénil, Melun, France and Dali’s Teatro-Museo in Figueres, Spain.
Although both Dali and Argillet are no longer alive, we have managed to get hold of Christine Argillet, the daughter of Pierre Argillet, to tell us more about Dali and his inspirations. Christine spent much of her childhood in the presence of Salvador Dali, and experienced his receptivity and broad-mindedness first-hand. While we are not able to provide a full documentary of Dali’s thought process. Christine has provided invaluable insights into the collaboration between her father and Dali, and the works they produced together as she chats with us in a short interview below.
What do you think prompted Dali in 1967, to choose Mao’s poems instead of his portrait to represent the East?
It was May 1968, and we were in Paris, France, in the middle of what we called a “mini- revolution”. The revolt had been initially inspired by the Chinese “cultural revolution”, starting with universities and then spreading to factories. Dali was in Paris at the time. My father had found, in one of our numerous bookstores, the Poems of Mao Zedong next to the Red Book, and had brought it to Dali as a surprise. Amazed by the poems, Dali decided to illustrate 8 of them. The interest of Dali was to find a “correspondence” between Eastern vision and symbols, and Western surreal vision in describing universal concepts like freedom, the strive for wealth, democracy, etc. These correspondences are visible with “The 100 Flowers” and the “River of Plenty” illustrations.
Do you think the tumultuous period of 1968 (e.g. Vietnam War, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinations) had a bearing on Dali’s interpretation of the Hippies series? How so?
In 1969, when my father came back from India with dozens of rolls of pictures on the country and on the Hippies traveling mostly barefoot toward the Himalayas, Dali became eager to put a parallel between Eastern and Western philosophical quests. Dali wanted to be universally understood; he wanted to be a kind of Leonardo da Vinci of the XXth century. The late 60s was a time where anti-war and anti-racism spread as a response to violent scenes (e.g. Vietnam War, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinations), and a philosophical and peaceful counterpart was led by the Hippy movement whose motto was “Love and Peace”, following the non-violent attitude of Gandhi. Dali would see a parallel between Hippies going to India and pilgrims of the Middle-Ages on their way to Santiago of Compostella and Jerusalem. You see this with “Santiago of Compostella”, “Woman with Cushion” and “The Sacred Cow”.
Do you see Dali’s surreal approach and works being relevant to the young of today? Which modern artist, do you think, resemble Dali’s approach to art?
I am surprised to see how young crowds, all over the world, are fascinated by Dali’s free attitude and humorous spirit. Many artists have been inspired by Dali’s unconventional attitude and I think that not only Andy Warhol, but people like Ai Weiwei and Combas, have at a moment or another followed this path.
Would 3D printing be one way for the modern artist to replicate surrealistic artwork? For instance, would something like a 3D printed “Tree in Cross” Jewelry, inspired by Dalí, catch on?
Dali had already experienced holograms and 3D painting in the 70s. Any new tool is a possibility for an artist, but it is the idea that is probably more contemporary than the tool.
If Dali were to be commissioned for a work in Singapore, what do you think he would choose to depict, especially in modern Singapore today?
Probably the verticality of this extraordinary city would have inspired him and led to other experiences.
SALVADOR DALI & PIERRE ARGILLET:
THIRTY YEARS OF COLLABORATION
11 September – 5 October 2016
Block 9, Dempsey Road
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Saturday 17, 24 Sep & 1 Oct @ 2 – 3pm