Dali and the Exploited Success of an Idea

When I was in Paris in 2011 I visited the Salvador Dali Museum, a collection of his lesser known works.  The most striking thing about the museum was the repetitive use of his major ideas- melting clocks in other paintings and sculptures, Don Quixote in multiple iterations.  Lots of mustache and lips stuff, including a lips couch.

shot at the Salvador Dali Museum in Paris

No one would debate that Dali was an extraordinarily talented visionary, but I have to admit the constant recycling of concepts was disappointing.  It’s a bit like in music where a musician has a hit and proceeds to make a carbon copy version of that hit.  One would hope a creative genius would stretch their boundaries a bit with each new release.  I though t about it and came to the conclusions that:

1. working artists need to produce whether they have new ideas or not

2. even geniuses have a limited number of ideas and a even smaller number of “hits”

3. the majority of people only want to see/ hear the “hits”

4. artists should produce a blend of what they want and what will be successful, because as humans they are obliged to keep their family fed and clothed, while meeting the demands of their creative impulses.  Sometimes the latter includes new editions (melting clocks as sculptures), or refining of ideas by painting them over and over.

5. Artists are people and shouldn’t be elevated to pedestals.  For every artist someone thinks is a genius lurks someone who has traced, or stolen an idea, or had a factory of subordinates doing his/ her work for them, or had money from family to buy adspace/ pay a promoter/ etc.

shot at the Salvador Dali Museum in Paris

Today I am far less critical of Dali’s repetitive concepts.  It’s a by-product of mixing art and commerce and human behavior.


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I'm a multimedia artist in Phoenix, AZ. Main Site - http://www.primordialcreative.com Instagram @primordialcreative + twitter @dbmillerphoto

4 thoughts on “Dali and the Exploited Success of an Idea”

  1. I completely agree that it’s a little boring/repetitive to see the same output from an artist over a long span. I think as a surrealist painter, however, that Dali’s output was dependent more than a ‘conventional’ painter on the sub/unconscious, and this perhaps led to him recycling imagery (the clocks, lips etc) that was evocative to him as a person. Of course Dali was a media and money hound (his Avida Dollars moniker expressing this) but perhaps this repetition of themes is not entirely based around his desire to reproduce his ‘hits’, but more that he was at the whim of the background thoughts that we are all prey to from time to time.

    1. At some point I want to investigate this particular museum in Paris and the history of the works a bit more. I’ve found that when I sell something I’ve made I instantly think I need to make another one similar to it.

      1. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said there needs to be a balance between what the artist what the people want – some artists are in a position financially to work to their own aims all of the time (and fair play to them if they can do it) but the majority just aren’t afforded this luxury, and so have to make concessions artistically to scratch a living out of something they love – much better than giving up on your dreams all together 🙂

  2. Good observations, and I agree. One of my favorite artists, Jerry Uelsmann, uses many elements repeatedly in his photomontage work. It happens just enough to notice, but not enough to be distracting. Dali is my second favorite artist, next to Uelsmann. I visited the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg and was blown away.

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