Yes! It's Salvador Dali -- il est complètement fou! -- hawking choccies. And here he is again, with thanks to Megan McArdle, as the mystery guest on What's My Line?
Discussion Questions: Has there been a visual artist, at least since Warhol, who would have the sort of immediate recognizability that Dali possessed? And when was the last time the panelists on a game show were so obviously a collection of grownups?
Dali seems never to go out of style, and today marks the opening at London's Tate Modern of "Dalí & Film," an exhibition focusing on Dali's work in film in collaboration with Bunuel, Hitchcock, and Disney, among others, and on the influence of film on Dali's painting. Dali & Film will (oh joy!) be traveling to Los Angeles in October.
For the occasion, the Guardian calls on JG Ballard to say a few words. Here, Ballard takes up Dali's famed limp watches, which the Museum of Modern Art (oh joy yet again!) has lent out as part of the show:
Dalí's masterpiece and, I believe, the greatest painting of the 20th century is The Persistence of Memory, a tiny painting not much larger than the postcard version, containing the age of Freud, Kafka and Einstein in its image of soft watches, an embryo and a beach of fused sand. The ghost of Freud presides over the uterine fantasies that set the stage for the adult traumas to come, while insects incarnate the self-loathing of Kafka's Metamorphosis and its hero turned into a beetle. The soft watches belong to a realm where clock time is no longer valid and relativity rules in Einstein's self-warping continuum.
What monster would grow from this sleeping embryo? It may be the long eyelashes, but there is something feminine and almost coquettish about this little figure, and I see the painting as the 20th century's Mona Lisa, a psychoanalytic take on the mysterious Gioconda smile. If the Mona Lisa, as someone said, looks as if she has just dined on her husband, then Dalí's embryo looks as if she dreams of feasting on her mother.
Far from the final corruption of the renegade surrealist the movement's leader André Breton nicknamed 'Avida Dollars', Dalí's attempt to bring surrealist radicalism to a Disney cartoon has a striking quality of innocence and integrity - he really was trying to popularise modern art.
Disney, too, comes out of this story well, and let's face it, with intellectuals it's his image that needs the boost. Disney was not, as an artist, anything like the conservative all-American propagandist invented by hostile biographers. Whatever he was in his life, in his imagination he was sublimely audacious. His attempt to collaborate with Dalí was an avant-garde follow up to the Wagnerian ambition of Fantasia. Disney's films are full of surrealist moments: he even shared Dalí's obsession with bottoms. Forests of thorns, skull islands, dancing skeletons and clock-swallowing crocodiles abound in Disney's cinema which goes further than the surrealists ever could in unlocking the dream life of children and adults.
Is it October yet? To tide us over, here is an obscure and appropriate musical selection drawn from Ellen Foley's 1981 album, Spirit of St. Louis:
Ms. Foley's gentleman companion at the time was Mick Jones of the Clash. Spirit of St. Louis features numerous contributions from Jones and fellow Clashster Joe Strummer as players, producers and songwriters. "Salvador Dali" is one of six Strummer/Jones tunes on the record and with its self-consciously surreal lyrics -- "Priests married themselves using Bibles and mirrors" -- is certainly the oddest of the bunch.
For her part, Ellen Foley contributed vocals to "Hitsville UK" on the Clash's own Sandinista! album, and the Mick Jones-penned hit "Should I Stay or Should I Go" is reputed to have been inspired by his relationship with Foley. A deliciously eclectic concoction and worth hunting down if one could do so affordably, Spirit of St. Louis is sadly out of print. A bit more information on the recording can be found at Lost Bands Of The New Wave Era.