Dalí and the Automobile

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Friday, 2018, July 13

The Dalí’s bought their first car in 1941, a Cadillac being the obvious choice for the flamboyant exhibitionist Dalí. The couple remained faithful to the American brand all their lives. Surprisingly, Dalí didn’t drive, he left it to his Russian wife Gala.

The image of the car is often found in Dalí’s oeuvre, and forms an interesting point for discussion. Dalí’s acquaintance Fleur Cowles, recalled in her memoirs ‘The Case of Salvador Dalí’;

‘Dalí always had in his head to invent automobiles. One day, as we lunched, I suggested to him the idea of a sports car, and arranged afterwards a meeting with the bosses of some automobile companies so he could talk it over with them.’

The Dali Universe owns several artworks that reference the automobile; including an exquisite artwork, forming part of the Cristal Daum collection, Débris d’une automobile donnat naissance à un cheval aveugle mordant un téléphone. (1988)

According to Robert Descharnes, Dalí’s personal secretary, General Motors of America had asked Dalí to create a new model for a car they planned on producing; it would be called Cadillac de Gala. Dalí made a sketch and sent it to the company, he heard nothing back. Much to his surprise, the following year General Motors produced a new model called the Cadillac de Gala.  Dalí, never one to be hoodwinked, demanded $10,000  compensation else he would begin a lawsuit. General Motors sent him a cheque for the same amount the very next day!

Rainy Taxi (1938), Dalí’s famous art installation first premiered at the Galerie Beaux-Arts in Paris, part of the‘Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme,’ organized by André Breton and Paul Éluard. Two mannequins sit in a taxi which has a water system integrated, so that it appears, bizarrely, to rain inside the car.

The Cadillac that Gala used to drive, which the couple drove from coast to coast during their stay in the United States is now on display at the Museo Teatro at Figueras, it is a replica of the original Rainy Taxi installation.