I can't upload any vacation pics yet, but here's a stolen image of Salvador Dali's "Santiago el Grande" which currently resides at the Lord Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton, New Brunswick. (I was there today.) This painting is safe at the art gallery, but to read about the other Dali paintings that are at risk of being whisked away to Britain (and others, including a Lucien Freud painting) check out the Globe and Mail article below this picture.
Canada's Dali connection
Tired of fighting the crowds in Philadelphia and Catalonia? Visitors can have several of the surrealist's works all to themselves at Fredericton's Beaverbrook Art Gallery
By BARBARA RAMSAY ORR
Saturday, April 30, 2005 Page T2
Special to The Globe and Mail
FREDERICTON -- In Catalonia in Northern Spain, there is an area known as the Dali Triangle. It encompasses the Spanish-born surrealist painter's home in Cadaques, the castle in Pubol that he built for his wife, Gala, and the Salvador Dali Museum in Figueres.
Now, there's a North American Dali Triangle. One point is a unique yet temporary exhibit of the artist's work in Philadelphia, another is the permanent collection of his work in St. Petersburg, Fla.
The third can be found in Fredericton. Who would have suspected that Dali's influence could be found in a small art gallery in a quiet maritime town?
I have known of the exceptional art collection at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery for some time because, as an undergraduate at the University of New Brunswick, I had occasionally visited the gallery, mostly to see the monumental Dali work, Santiago el Grande, for which it is justly famous. It is the kind of painting that particularly appeals to the student aesthetic, with its monumental size -- it is almost four metres tall -- and dream-like religious symbolism.
When I recently visited Fredericton for my son's graduation from my alma mater, I had just returned from a tour of the Catalonian Dali Triangle. It had been an enlightening trip, particularly the intimate glimpse of the artist that was shown in his small house in Cadaques, and in the idiosyncratic castle in Pubol.
The museum, however, was not a complete success. There is no disputing the fact that the Salvador Dali Museum in Figueres is home to some of the finest Dali works, but when I visited, it was crowded with group tours, with seniors and students milling around and making it difficult to see the work.
The layout of the museum is awkward for viewing as well. Dali wanted visitors to turn corners and be surprised, to discover the pieces almost organically, in unexpected places. That's fine if you are alone and have time to work your way through the labyrinth of hallways, but when the space is crowded, it's difficult to appreciate the collection.
So, on a fine spring afternoon, I decided to revisit the Beaverbrook Art Gallery. Founded in 1959, it was a gift to the people of New Brunswick from Sir Max Aitken, the first Lord Beaverbrook, who grew up in New Brunswick and made his fortune in England in newspaper publishing and finance. His generous gifts of money and artworks, as well as donations from other New Brunswick philanthropists, have led to the creation of this astonishing treasure trove of art on the banks of the Saint John River.
As I entered, the gallery was cool and silent. The Dalis were there -- no crowds, no noise, no rush -- and I was able to enjoy them in peace. There are three others besides the iconic Santiago el Grande. They are oddly quirky portraits, two of Sir James Dunn and one of Lady Dunn. Dunn was a wealthy New Brunswick-born industrialist, and he and Lady Dunn had met and formed a friendship with Dali when the artist had seen Sir James across from him in a New York restaurant and had asked to be introduced. Dali later painted the portraits, one of Lady Dunn titled Equestrian Fanstasy: Lady Dunn, and the two of Sir James.
After Sir James's death, the widowed Lady Dunn became good friends with her husband's close acquaintance, Lord Beaverbrook. They married a year before Beaverbrook died, when he was 84 and she was 56. After his death, Lady Dunn continued to make generous gifts to the gallery and to the province that had nurtured both of her husbands.
There is, of course, much more to the Beaverbrook Art Gallery than Dali. It's home to a fine international collection, as well as a broad representation of contemporary Atlantic artists such as Mary Pratt and Christopher Pratt, Alex Colville, Molly Lamb Bobak and Bruno Bobak.
All is not well at the gallery, however. Some of the Dalis, as well as works by Lucian Freud, Thomas Gainsborough, J. M. W. Turner, William Hogarth, Sandro Boticelli, John Singer Sargent, Cornelius Krieghoff, and James Wilson Morrice are part of a legal dispute that may see those paintings disappearing from the gallery's walls.
Ownership of the disputed paintings, including two of the Dali portraits of the Dunns, is being claimed by the Canadian Beaverbrook Foundation and the British Beaverbrook Foundation, both set up to administer the trust left by Aitken, and headed by his grandsons, who maintain that the paintings were only on loan to the gallery. They would like to take some of them back, particularly two very valuable works. The gallery claims that the paintings were a gift to the province from its famous native son, and refuses to part with them. The matter is heading to binding arbitration with the British Foundation, and is in suspended animation with the Canadian branch of the trust.
Thankfully, Santiago El Grande is not in danger, nor is the portrait of Sir James called Sunrise: Sir James Dunn, because they were gifts from the Lady Dunn Foundation and the gallery's ownership of them is clear.
It must be true that controversy is attractive. Since the dispute broke out, attendance at the Beaverbrook has increased by a quarter, and donations have doubled.
I think that Salvador Dali would have enjoyed the feud, but he would definitely have smiled at the sauciness of the art gallery's upcoming exhibition, titled Art in Dispute. More than 200 of the endangered paintings will be on display from July 1 to Nov. 27, including the two most valuable works in dispute: Turner's The Foundation of Innocence, valued at about $25-million, and Lucian Freud's Hotel Bedroom, worth at least $5-million.
If you are anywhere near the Beaverbrook this summer, Art in Dispute is a must-see exhibition, not just for its controversial background, but for the chance to see these truly remarkable works hanging on the walls of a Canadian gallery. They may not always be there.
The Philly end of the Dali triangle is not endangered, but it is transitory. The Philadelphia Museum of Art is currently hosting a retrospective exhibit of more than 200 of Dali's works, many of which have never been seen in North America before. There is also an opportunity for Dali lovers to see some of his experiments in film that will be showing in the video gallery: the posthumously completed Destino, the totally surreal Un Chien Andalu, some of his experiments in advertising and a sequence the artist created for Alfred Hitchcock's movie Spellbound. The exhibition is a chance to see the full scope of the influential painter's work, and Philadelphia is the only North American venue. The exhibit, scheduled to close May 15, has been so popular that it has been extended to the end of the month.
The third point on the North American Dali triangle is the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, second only to the Dali Museum in Figueres in the depth and importance of its collection of the painter's work. One reason to visit the museum now is to see the newest acquisition, Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea Which at Twenty Meters Becomes A Portrait of Abraham Lincoln, a large-scale double-image painting of the painter's wife, Gala, that switches into a portrait of Lincoln when you squint your eyes. The current exhibition, Dali Revealed: Land, Myth, Perception, and God, explores the dominant themes of his work.
The timing couldn't be better for the travelling art lover to take a true venture into the surreal by visiting all three venues. Pack your bags!
New Brunswick: Beaverbrook Art Gallery, 703 Queen St., Fredericton; www.beaverbrookartgallery.org; 506-458-2024.
Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Benjamin Franklin Parkway and 26th Street; 215-235-7489; www.philamuseum.org. The special Dali exhibit runs through May 30.
St. Petersburg: Salvador Dali Museum, 1000 Third St. S.; 1-800-442-3254; www.alvadordalimuseum.org.
Catalonia: For information about the Dali sites in Spain, visit the website at www.salvador-dali.org.