After exhibiting his Surrealist art at New York’s Julien Levy Gallery in 1934, Dalí concluded that his audacious brand of hyperrealistic paintings would inevitably be welcomed by the Hollywood community—the manufacturers of “hallucinatory celluloid.” In an exuberant message to André Breton, he declared, “I’m in Hollywood where I’ve made contact with the three American Surrealists, Harpo Marx, [Walt] Disney, and Cecil B. DeMille. I believe I’ve intoxicated them suitably and hope that the possibilities for Surrealism here will become a reality.” This exhibition comprises a selection of notable films by Disney, DeMille, and the Marx Brothers that demonstrate a Surrealist sensibility.
Dalí had been introduced to Harpo Marx in Paris in 1936, and he was convinced that the mute, curly-haired performer was a kinsman in the Surrealist movement—Harpo’s silence was considered by Dalí to be an anarchistic form of rebellion against modern society. In Disney, Dalí envisioned an avuncular ally who rendered childlike imagination into popular culture and was creating a worldwide brand. Finally, and perhaps most curiously, the inclusion of DeMille signals Dalí’s own preference for epic historical and religious motifs that teeter on the line between daring modernity and drippy kitsch.
This exhibition is presented in conjunction with Dalí: Painting and Film.
The film exhibitions were organized by Anne Morra, Assistant Curator, Department of Film. Dalí: Painting and Film is coordinated for MoMA by Jodi Hauptman, Curator, Department of Drawings.