With all the pomp and circumstance befitting a surrealist artist, including attendance by Princess Cristina of Spain, the new Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Fla., held its grand opening on January 11, 2011, at 11:11 a.m. and opened to the public Jan. 12.
I wasn’t there for the wonderful new beginning but visited the Friday (Jan. 14) after the grand festivities. Unfortunately, can’t say the experience knocked my socks off. Maybe it’s just I don’t like museums or maybe it’s because I didn’t do my research to enhance my visit. Let’s see…
OnStar Couldn’t Locate the Dali Museum
I’m navigationally challenged especially when it comes to big city driving so I have no shame calling my navigation advisers with OnStar to get me from Point A to Point B. After all, I pay a pretty penny for the service. I gave the address of the new Dali Museum and the adviser couldn’t locate it in the system. She placed me on hold and at 10:30 a.m.-ish, she called the museum but couldn’t reach a human. I asked to be directed to the old Dali Museum address since I had read there was a parade from the old one to the new one so figured it had to be nearby.
Money! Yup, being routed to the old museum worked out perfectly, once I got off the exit, the big brown directional signs had been changed pointing me in the direction of the new museum.
Admission – I Didn’t Look for Coupons
A dollar’s a dollar, especially in this economy and I’m kicking myself for not picking up the St. Petersburg Downtown Guide & Map before entering the new Dali Museum. I broke one of my travel rules and didn’t look for coupons. If I had looked for the guide and map, I would have saved $2 off the $21 admission! I asked for a AAA discount but the museum doesn’t offer that. Oh, well. I contributed to Florida arts.
Lesson Learned: Take the time to look for discount coupons.
I Didn’t Ask for the FREE Audio Guide or Take the FREE Docent Tour
I didn’t see them advertised and assumed the audio guides I saw visitors using would be pricey so I didn’t pursue them. The clerk who took my money didn’t volunteer them, either. Out of curiosity, when leaving the museum I asked staff about the cost of the audio guides and was told they were free! Since I really didn’t have time for the free docent led tour, this audio guide would have been perfect. I visited the old Dali Museum location last year and took the docent tour so I was already familiar with Dali’s work and how the collection ended up in St. Petersburg.
Lesson Learned: When visiting the Dali Museum, ASK for the free audio guide.
I Used My iPhone for Taking Notes (AKA: How to Get Scolded by Dali Museum Security)
When I travel, I take notes. Although I carry a notebook and pen, some museums frown against using pens in galleries. Solution? The notes function of my iPhone. I love it! Except when I forget to save the information, but that’s rare these days. Using the notes function allows me to quickly jot down impressions, thoughts and ideas without having to dig for a pen. Apparently security at the Dali Museum aren’t too keen on this. While cell phones were ringing AROUND me, I’m the one who’s scolded by museum security to not use my cell phone in the gallery.
My phone did not ring, it did not buzz , I had it on silent because I didn’t want any clicking while using the keys and I didn’t take any photos. I was using it to take notes. Meanwhile, around me others were TALKING on their cell phones but weren’t being scolded.
Now, I did see a couple of people scolded by Dali Museum security when they got too close to the walls and I cringed when I saw people putting their hands about a centimeter away from the art yet no one asked them to back away. Go figure.
Lesson Learned: I’ll use my pen and notebook next time.
On the Positive…Dali’s Artwork, Not the Only Fun Stuff in the Museum
In addition to Dali’s incredible art, there’s some other fun stuff to admire and appreciate. Most obvious is the hurricane proof building’s Glass Enigma, an amazing piece of glass work that wraps around the exterior and from the inside looks like an eye. Designed by architect Yann Weymouth of HOK, no two glass panels are alike.
The gift shop is full of Dali-inspired gifts but don’t miss the Rainy Rolls 2010, a homage to Salvador Dali’s Rainy Taxi. Drop a dollar in the machine to make the interior of a Rolls Royce rain accompanied by thunder and lightning. A female mannequin sits in the backseat through the rainstorm with a scuba diver sitting in the front seat. Little snails dot the car’s exterior.
My favorite gift shop item had to be the little Salvador Dali finger puppets – aren’t they cute?
Cafe Gala, named for Dali’s wife and muse, serves Spanish-flavor cafe cuisine and for museum fare, is reasonably priced. Tapas range in price between $5 and $6, glasses of wine available starting at $6 and entrees include Spanish paninis for $8.
Brief History of the Dali Museum
Outside of Spain, the Dali Museum holds the largest, most extensive collection of the Spanish artist’s works. A. Reynolds and Eleanor Morse of Ohio acquired their first Salvador Dali painting during their 1942 honeymoon and over time, obtained more than 100 pieces. When it came time for the Morses to find a permanent home for their extensive collection, they decided on St. Petersburg for the waterfront location and the city was one of three (Boulder and Austin were the other two) that agreed to keep the collection together. In 1982 the first Dali Museum in St. Petersburg opened.
Things to Know When Visiting the New Dali Museum
The Dali Museum is open Monday through Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Thursday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Noon to 5:30 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $21 per adult, discounts for seniors, students, police, firefighters, military and children offered. After 5 p.m. on Thursdays, admission is $10. The museum may close early for special events so check in advance.
Check out my more “formal” article for additional tips, Florida Travel: 8 Tips for Visiting the New Dali Museum
1 Dali Blvd.
St. Petersburg, Fla.