I don’t see much art these days. Gone is The Aesthete and, so too, the beery outings to the galleries on Yitong Street (伊通街) and I haven’t been to the Taipei Fine Arts Museum in eons, the Museum of Contemporary Art even longer.
The last major show I saw was Chagall at the National Palace Museum and the was just because I like Chagall (something that, along with my way uncool predilection for Impressionism, earned me sniffs of derision).
I certainly wouldn’t have made for the Dali exhibition late Saturday afternoon if not for the free tickets courtesy of my job. He’s always seemed more a gimmicky brand to me, much like the likes of Hirst, Murakami and many contemporary artists. Well, that’s a little unfair. At least Dali could actually paint.
But the affected eccentricities, silly tash and the same motifs recurring ad infinitum … the claim that he was one of the big Spanish three, along with Miro and Picasso was always dubious to me. The very name of this show at the CKS Memorial Hall was off-putting (and not because of the shoddy English): “Dali Mind of Genius.”
I have to say, I enjoyed the show, though. Some of the cast-iron sculptures (many involving his melting clock motif) were interesting and I was particularly impressed with the layout and lighting which really brought out the colours and contours of the works.
Dali was nothing if not versatile and worked in all kinds of media; but of the works on display here I was probably most interested by his woodcut print illustrations and etchings for famous works, including De La Fontaine’s Fables and Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.
There’s something really cool about great artists illustrating books, especially fables and fairytales. I suppose it seems to me a little like having your favourite singer show up at your party to sing you Happy Birthday. If any artist of Dali’s stature was better cut out for visually realizing the hallucinatory episodes of Alice, I’d have a tough time naming him.
The illustrations for a French version of Freud’s Moses and Monotheism were similarly apposite, especially as Dali was heavily influenced by Freud’s work. Dali, it appears, had a fascination with Hitler and Franco 1 but Judaism also seems to have informed his work, though obviously not to the extent that it pervades Chagall’s. On the wall opposite the Freud illustrations is a collection called the Twelve Tribes of Israel, which was commissioned to mark the 25th birthday of the Jewish state.
NT$250 – the standard price of the exhibitions at CKS – is not exactly a snip, but if you’re up for seeing an interesting and well-presented collection from an undoubted giant of 20th century art, Dali: Mind of Genius is pretty good stuff. When a colleague of mine went on the opening day he said there was nary a soul to be see, but it was mobbed when I was there, so be prepared to move slowly along when looking at some of the works.