After its monumental "Picasso/Dali, Dali Picasso" exhibit, the people at St. Petersburg's Salvador Dali Museum were ready to have a little fun.
They drew their inspiration, at least in part from Bradenton.
"Dali & DaVinci: Minds, Machines and Masterpieces" opened last week and runs through late July. It borrows ideas and even some actual pieces of art from the "DaVinci Machines" exhibit that was a massive hit for Bradenton last year. (The successor to that show, "Divine Michelangelo & DaVinci: Side by Side" is running through April at the Bradenton Auditorium.)
"We looked at the DaVinci exhibit in Bradenton and the one at MOSI (Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry)," said Peter Tush, the Dali Museum's curator of education, "and thought 'Let's not worry about getting loans on this.' "
Loans of Picasso works were hard to arrange. The "Picasso/Dali" exhibit required 11 years of negotiations. Getting DaVinci originals would be even more difficult, Tush said.
By using some works on loan from the Bradenton exhibit and by creating and re-creating some objects themselves, Dali officials put the DaVinci exhibit together in only six months.
It includes three original Dali oil paintings, three prints and five objects -- including "Venus de Milo With Drawers" and "The First Cylindric Chromo-Hologram Portrait of Alice Cooper's Brain" -- but no original DaVincis.
The exhibit shows DaVinci's influence on Dali. It has some very whimsical elements, but it's no less edifying than its predecessor.
At first glance, the creator of "The Persistence of Memory" would seem to have little to do with the creator of "The Mona Lisa." But Dali, it turns out, was almost obsessed with DaVinci.
In fact, once they started putting the exhibit together, even the Dali experts were surprised by the depth of DaVinci's influence. The more they learned, the more they saw they had to learn. Like layers of an onion, Tush said.
Early in his career, Dali was fascinated by DaVinci's dual interests.
"He learned from DaVinci that an artist could be interested in science," Tush said.
The exhibit includes a "math room" that shows the parallel devotion to mathematics in the two artist's work, especially the geometric proportions of DaVinci's "The Last Supper."
At another point in his career, Dali took an interest in psychology, largely through Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytical study of DaVinci's paintings. And Dali's late paintings show a interest in mysticism that parallel's DaVinci's religious work.
Dali even painted his own version of the Mona Lisa, substituting his own famous face for the original. Both artists also created, at least on paper, inventions that were far ahead of their time, most of which were never realized. Some are showcased in the exhibit's "invention room." DaVinci designed helicopters and bicycles and perpetual motion machines. The DaVinci Machines Exhibit in Bradenton featured models of many of those inventions, taken from DaVinci's drawings. A few of them are now part of the Dali Museum exhibition.
"We couldn't be more pleased to be associated with the Dali Museum because they do such wonderful work," said Mark Rodgers, the curator of the Bradenton DaVinci exhibits. "We gave them three pieces -- the glider, the underwater diver and the air screw, plus the 'Mona Lisa.' We're honored to have our pieces there." The Mona Lisa is a computer-created copy of the original. The three objects are all DaVinci inventions that contemporary artisans created from his drawings. Dali, Tush said, went through a period in which he was struggling for money, and turned to inventing objects and devices that he thought would make him rich. Artists working with the Dali Museum have realized several of those for this exhibit.
There's room that breathes, with pulsating sheets of plastic for walls and rhythmically changing lights. There are shoes with springs on the bottom, that Dali thought would make walking more fun.
Dali also had an idea for creating objects that were so hideous that people would purchase them simply to destroy them. The Dali artists created some of those, and they're shown in a video, being smashed to bits, accompanied by the music of Enrico Caruso.
One Dali invention that he couldn't sell was a huge sphere that people could climb into and roll around. Kind of a human hamster ball.
During Dali's lifetime people though it was a crazy idea.
"Now," Tush said, "you can order them on Amazon."
Details: Through July 26, Salvador Dali Museum, 1 Dali Blvd., St. Petersburg. Hours: 10 a.m.- 5:30 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday-Friday. Admission: $24 general, $22 seniors, military, police and educators, $17 ages 13-17 and college students; $10 ages 6-12, under age 5 admitted free. Information: 727-823-3767, thedali.org.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919.