Salvador Dali Museum in Figueres – how to get there, photos and reviews – an essay about our trip to the theatre-museum in the northern Catalan province of Girona.
Surrealism is in most people’s minds, if not synonymous, then virtually inseparable from the name of the genius of Spanish painter, writer, director and sculptor Salvador Dali. More precisely, not Spanish, but Catalan, as the painter himself has always stressed his origins.
A little background. Figueres is the birthplace of Dali, a town with a population of about 46 thousand people, among whom are many ethnic Roma.
The Museum Theatre of Salvador Dali in Figueres, which contains many works of the artist made during his artistic career in different styles, is the main attraction of the city.
We arrived in Figueres (Figueres Vilafant train station) in the morning from Girona by train. The journey time was 14 minutes. The ticket price was 6 euros 90 cents.
From the station we went into town to look for the Salvador Dali Museum. It’s easy to find – the pink egg-coloured building is impossible not to notice. This in itself is a work of art, which has been awarded the title of the largest object of surrealism.
The Dali Museum in Figueres, built to the artist’s design on the site of a theatre, is considered to be the painter’s last work of art. In Dali’s own words: ‘There are other worlds, that’s for sure; … these other worlds are in our, … precisely at the centre of the dome of the Dali Museum, where the whole … world of Surrealism is concentrated’.
We bought our tickets in advance on the website. Before the trip I read a lot of reviews, everywhere it was said that there were huge lines at the museum, and to see Mary West you had to wait half an hour. Perhaps because we were out of season (January-month), there were few people, and there were no long lines. So we walked around the museum quietly, as long as we wanted.
History of the Salvador Dali Museum in Figueres
In the early 1960s, Ramón Guardiola, mayor of Figueres, asked Dali to donate a work to the Museu de l’Empordà (Museu de l’Empordà). In response to the request, Salvador decided to donate not just one work, but an entire museum. The site for the museum was not chosen by chance. The theatre was located in front of the church where Dalí was baptised and the theatre itself hosted the first exhibition of his work. Dali was very fond of theatre and considered himself to be, in a way, a “theatre painter”.
The building that was to house the Dali Museum in Figueres was not in the best of condition: destroyed during the civil war, it has survived in a more or less intact state only the entrance hall and the lounge. From the 70s onwards Dali devoted himself wholeheartedly to the museum project, and in 1974 it was inaugurated.
The dome of the Museum, which is not only the emblem of the Teatro Museo but also a symbol of Figueres, was the result of Salvador Dali’s creative idea, brought to life by the architect Emilio Pérez Piñero of Murcia.
And now to our visit to the theatre.
The museum is full of rooms, each with Dalí’s work, stereoscopic installations and anamorphisms. There are no guides or signposts as to which sequence to go through the rooms. This was Dali’s request. He believed that there was not and could not be a definite sequence in the world of Surrealism. As for Dali’s work, the early works are more vivid and clear, while the works of his later years are wistful and fuzzy. It turns out that in the last years of his life Dali had Parkinson’s disease, which explains the fuzzy lines.
The museum also has a separate Dalí Joyas exhibit, opened in 2001, featuring gold and gemstone jewellery from Salvador Dalí’s Owen Cheatham jewellery collection. He began working on the designs for the collection in the United States in 1941.
Many of the works are dedicated to his muse – Salvador’s favourite woman – Gala (Elena Dmitrievna Dyakonova), who in 1934 became his official wife, and with whom he didn’t part till the end of his life. He could write a novel about their relationship – Gala never missed a chance to have an affair on the side. Dali knew about this, but did not reproach his wife, moreover, even bought her a castle Pubol, where she lived separately, and could “take” husband, giving only written consent.
Of course, not everything in Dali’s work is understandable. Or perhaps surrealism is impossible to understand. But after wandering the halls of the museum, reality vanishes somewhere. Maybe for that, the theatre-museum has a green patio where you can come to your senses for a while. 🙂
One of the most surreal pieces is the room of American actress Mae West (La Sala Mae West). For a better view, you can climb up onto the elevated platform in the room to see the painting in its entirety.
In addition to Dali’s works – the most famous of which include Portrait of Gala, Soft Self-Portrait with Bacon, and Basket of Bread – the museum also features works by other artists, Antoni Pitxot and Evariste Valle, and several sculptors whose works look frighteningly realistic.
At the centre of the museum is the tomb of the artist walled into the floor. Dali, who ended his days here – in the theatre – asked that people be allowed to walk on his grave.
The impressions of visiting the museum are mixed. Salvador Dali is a very special person, and the museum he put his soul into is very special and in some places incomprehensible, but unforgettable.
When travelling around Catalonia, a visit to the Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres is a must even if you are not a fan of Dalí’s work.
Useful information about the Dali Museum in Figueres
1. For the current schedule of temporary exhibitions and opening hours, visit the official website: https://www.salvador-dali.org/en/museums/dali-theatre-museum-in-figueres/
2. Entrance fee for visitors is 14 €. Free for children up to 8 years old.
3. The Dali Museum in Figueres periodically organises an “open house” (free admission). Keep an eye on the museum website for this as well.
And in the end I would also advise you to visit Toy Museum of Catalonia in Figueres.