By TAMARA LUSH
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol: one was a surrealist from Spain, the other, a pop artist from Pittsburgh.
They were among the most famous artists of the 20th century, and in 2014, their works will be on exhibit in adjoining galleries at a museum in Florida.
The Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg announced Thursday that a show called “Warhol: Art. Fame. Mortality.” will open at the museum on Jan. 18.
The exhibit will include about 35 of Warhol’s paintings, 20 drawings, 50 photographs and a selection of films. The works are on loan from the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, where Warhol was born and raised before moving to New York City.
Warhol’s silkscreened self-portrait in red and a vibrant blue silkscreen of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis will be among the works on display.
“Warhol had a similar sensibility to Dali,” said the museum’s executive director, Hank Hine. “Both referenced fame and mass culture.”
Despite their different backgrounds, Dali and Warhol had a lot in common and hung out together in the 1960s, Hine said.
Both had signature looks — Warhol with his shock of white hair, Dali with his flamboyant moustache — and both artists wanted to shock the public and explore the meaning and limits of fame. Dali was a generation older — born in 1904 — than Warhol, who was born in 1928, but both captivated the public with their attention-getting and sometimes controversial works of art.
Warhol often visited Dali when Dali stayed in a suite at the St. Regis Hotel in New York (one story goes that Dali tied Warhol to a spinning board and splattered paint over him). Warhol also made one of his famous “screen tests” of Dali — these short films were of a single person who wasn’t allowed to move, against a plain background.
Dali ignored Warhol’s instruction to sit still and left the frame.
“Both showmen, Warhol and Dali shared a mutual curiosity, but one could not take a back seat to the other for the sake of art,” wrote Anne Morra, associate curator at the Department of Film at the Museum of Modern Art in New York for the museum’s blog in 2011. “Warhol and Dali were indeed kindred spirits, what we’d probably call BFFs today; sassy, shallow, ego-driven, celebrity obsessed, and fond of readymades and disposability.”
Warhol’s work will be displayed in the Dali museum’s 5,000-square-foot (465-square-meter) gallery for temporary exhibits. Across the hallway is the museum’s permanent wing of Dali works.
The Warhol show will have a mock “Warhol Screen Test” where visitors can sit in front of a camera and then send their “tests” to social media.
Dali had no connection to St. Petersburg, and the museum’s collection of 100 of his works ended up there almost by accident. The pieces were acquired by A. Reynolds and Eleanor Morse of Ohio, much to the surprise of their staid Midwestern friends and family, beginning with their first Dali purchase in 1942, a painting titled “Daddy Longlegs of the Evening-Hope!”
The couple became so enamored of Dali and his style that they eventually befriended the artist and his wife, Gala. Later they started looking for a home for the collection. A. Reynolds Morse was willing to donate the works for free to any venue that would keep them together, and a St. Petersburg lawyer, Jim Martin, who read about the collection in a newspaper article, suggested St. Pete.
Hine said that this is the first major, non-Dali exhibit at the museum since it opened its new building along St. Petersburg’s waterfront in 2011. The Warhol exhibit is a taste of things to come for the museum, he said.
“We are choosing very carefully the artists with a lineage of the avant-garde,” he said. “Every year, we’ll do something grand like this.”