Salvador Dali devotees will want to make a point of visiting Gallery 725 this weekend to hear from Madame Christine Argillet, who has been called the last living link to the Surrealist master.
The daughter of Pierre Argillet, Dali’s publisher and confidante for more than 50 years, she will speak from Paris via satellite. Her presentation accompanies “Dali: The Argillet Collection,” an exhibition of 92 works by the famed artist, at the Jacksonville Beach gallery.
On display – and available for purchase – are numerous etchings and a few originals by Dali, all authenticated and autographed. An opening reception was held at the gallery on Friday, Jan. 28.
Dali arrives in Jacksonville
Gallery owners Shayna and Matt Winghart had been working to bring the show to the First Coast since the beginning of 2019. It was originally scheduled to go on exhibit in August 2020, but the pandemic intervened. With a vaccine still months in the future and questions about the risks of gathering in public, the timing was not right for the show.
But now, with the advent of vaccinations and a better understanding of the virus, businesses have found ways to remain open while keeping the public safe. And art venues are no exception.
So, after a long delay, the Wingharts have been able to proceed with their plans. And Dali fans have a rare opportunity to see these works at last.
“Considering that Jacksonville hasn’t seen a show like this in nearly a decade, we’re very excited and honored that they chose us to do the show,” Shayna Winghart said.
Christine Argillet is scheduled to speak during a trio of gallery receptions. The receptions are scheduled for noon to 2 p.m. and 5-6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 5, and 1-3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 6. To RSVP, contact the gallery at 904-345-9320 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Events are free of charge and open to the public.
Behind the art
Many people think of Dali as something of an eccentric, but Argillet remembers him as “a very shy man … simple in his daily life … and a true workaholic.” She recalls that he was always experimenting with new techniques and looking at things from various angles.
Dali was born in 1904 in Spain. Though he learned to paint in different styles when he was young, he took up Surrealism in the 1920s. His most famous work, “The Persistence of Memory” — which featured “melting” clocks — was painted in 1931.
Dali began a collaboration with Pierre Argillet in 1934. Together, they produced nearly 200 etchings and created the “Dali: The Argillet Collection.”
Argillet’s daughter, now the collection’s curator, grew up thinking of the Surrealist painter as a kind of uncle, and she recalls the men having long discussions on art and literature.
In an article she later wrote, Christine Argillet described Dali as “a man who saw the world as one in which everything was linked. That view of the world is evident in each and every piece of his art.”
“I observed and came to recognize this world view of Dali’s from childhood,” she wrote. “I see this theme in all of my family’s collection, and we speak of it often.”
The exhibit is being presented by the Road Show Company, which has been praised by the Argillet family for its professionalism and extraordinary efforts.
Asked about Dali’s enduring popularity, company president Nim Vaswani said simply, “He’s a master. He’s popular with everybody.”
“This exhibition truly is an intimate collaboration of my family with the most fascinating artist of the Surrealist Movement,” Christine Argillet wrote in reference to the Jacksonville Beach show. “It is with honor and humility that we, the Argillet family, are able to present to you this extraordinary assemblage of Dali’s works.”
“Dali: The Argillet Collection” is a museum-quality presentation. It has toured in Singapore and in fine art galleries around the globe. It has been presented in Chicago, New York, Palm Beach, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Indianapolis, San Diego and Washington, D.C.
The works being shown at Gallery 725 are mostly from Dali’s Suites, including “Mythologie,” “Goethe’s Faust,” “Poemes Secrets d’Apollinaire” and one of Shayne Winghart’s personal favorites, “Les Hippies.” That series originated with Pierre Argillet, who returned from a trip to India with several photos of the hippies he’d seen there. Dali used these as the groundwork for the series. Outlandish, surrealist characters and situations make their appearances through whirls or golden halos.
Perhaps one of the most surprising series in the exhibit was inspired by the poems of Mao Zedong.
Pierre Argillet brought a book of the poems from France and showed it to his friend. The artist was inspired to create eight illustrations, some of which were political satires. The “Hundred Flowers” appear as towering fleurs-de-lis. Crowns emerge from the “River of Plenty.” “Tortoise Mounts” are seen as gigantic animals wandering amid excrements resembling the Yin and Yang symbol.
The pieces in the exhibit are a constant surprise to the viewer. It seems that, the longer one examines a work, the more one sees.
And that may be one of the secrets behind Dali’s enduring popularity — one is never quite finished looking at his art.
Gallery 725 is located at 1250 Beach Blvd., Jacksonville Beach. Regular hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.