The Wisby-Smith Fine Art exhibit of Salvador Dali's etchings propels viewers into a fairy tale; some pieces are symbolic, some a little twisted, others simply fun, but the collection bears a thrilling levity that is, to put it simply, a pleasure. The etchings of the famous eccentric surrealist artist result from a collaboration with his close friend and publisher, Pierre Argillet, whose daughter was in town for the weekend to mingle with smartly dressed visitors and prospective buyers of the expansive body of work collected by her father.
Christine Argillet explained that the etchings were all printed from copper plates, and that they were reproduced in limited quantities. Most of them are grouped under thematic titles by their inspiration -- Don Juan, Mythology, Poems by Mao Zedong... Her father, who would have been 100 this year, passed away eight years ago. After his death, she felt it was time to share the art as a tribute to both him and Dali. "I think it's important that you share art with people," she said, her gracious engagement with the crowd backing up her sentiment.
Mixmaster catches up with Christine Argillet after the jump. Read her answers with a lovely French accent for the full effect.
How did your father collect so much of Dali's work?
At the beginning, he didn't have much money, and when he went to Dali, he commissioned him for two plates [copper plates used to create the etchings], and he was fearing that the price would be tremendous, and then Dali said to my father, "Just give me $1,000," what would nowadays be $1,000. My father said, "I think you made a mistake." My father was expecting a huge price. Dali said, "Take it like that because I know we are going to work a lot together." My father was very impressed by that answer. Dali had that feeling -- he knew what people had in mind.
They would discuss books together very much -- literature. The idea of salon, in France people would meet easily at the coffee place, and they would talk for hours. Suddenly, an idea would come, and either Dali or my father would say, "and what about that subject," and then they would go and do it. It's kind of a collaboration and coming together with the idea that that would be a great thing to do.
My father through the years commissioned Dali with a lot of works. And more and more he was working with Dali, the more he loved his art, and the character of Dali and this friendship was very strong.
Do you see their personalities coming out in these images?
It's well seen, well seen because my father was very humorous, and Dali was very humorous also. They had a very charming relationship, I would say, throughout the years. They were joking a lot. They had this very humorous and light spirit of the surrealists, and doing contradictory things and laughing.
Dali was inventing all the time, all the time. There was something in his mind that was creative, that was different from what you were used to seeing, and when we would go to his house in Spain, there were always things you could notice which were...impossible to imagine in advance.
For instance, if you were in the living room, you would see the ash tray coming next to you and you would look...and there is a long stick and it's glued on the shell of a garden tortoise which is walking and traveling with the ash tray. There were a lot of things like that...There was a big bear at the entrance of the house. I was looking at this white bear standing. I visited Dali's house three years ago -- it is now a museum. The bear is still there.
Do these memories come to mind as you walk through the gallery?
It was fun. He had such a funny spirit, but always positive, always nice...sometimes people wouldn't understand that humorous touch and would take it badly. But it was just for fun -- a fun moment.
Why are you releasing all of this work now?
When [my father] passed away, that was eight years ago. I thought about what we should do, and my idea was to have this collection more known. That was a tribute to Dali as an etcher and to my father as a publisher. I thought it was a good idea, and it's what I did through the years. We have had beautiful exhibitions, now I feel that I have accomplished the goal I had in mind when my father passed away. It's a very good souvenir -- a souvenir of very happy moments for me.
Salvador Dali: The Argillet Collection is on display through June 5 at Wisby-Smith Fine Art. Visit wisby-smith.com.