Salvador Dali museum 'beacon of cultural beauty'

“The city of St Petersburg gains a landmark and an outstanding beacon of cultural beauty,” said Princess Cristina of Spain, one of the dignitaries present at the opening ceremony. The city’s Mayor,  Rick Baker, commented that “this extraordinary new museum will be a crown jewel to St Petersburg’s growing cultural renaissance.  The building design is an unforgettable work  of art.” The first Salvador Dali Museum in the U S opened in Beachwood (a suburb of Cleveland), in Ohio state, in 1971 with the personal collection of Reynolds and Eleanor Morse, who were friends and patrons of the legendary Spanish artist and since 1943 were seeking out Dali’s work and assembling a  large private collection of  his creations; it functioned in a wing of their business premises. In the mid-1970s, the Morses began a nationwide search for a new museum home for this unique collection. They were approached by a community group from St. Petersburg, Florida, with an attractive offer to establish a permanent home in the city for the collection. The offer was accepted, and the Dali Museum moved south from Beachwood and was opened in March 1982.

In 2007, the museum sold the building to the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg, in anticipation of moving into a new facility.  Construction work on this new facility commenced in December 2008, with completion scheduled for January 2011 – a deadline met by all concerned. The museum was officially declared open on January 11.

The new three-storey Dali Museum, designed by the international architecture firm HOK, features a geodesic glass atrium, walls so thick that they can withstand a Category 5 hurricane, and a spiral staircase gracefully winding its way up to the atrium.  The specially clad structure is comprised of more than 1,000 triangular-shaped glass panels which create two different biomorphic forms that melt into the 18-inch-thick sides of the reinforced concrete building.  

At 67,000 sq. feet, the new Dali Museum has more than twice the exhibition space of  its predecessor, and its collection includes over 95 oil paintings and 2,000 other pieces. In addition to the building’s reception centre, the first level features a 90-seat theatre, a 150-seat community hall, a café with indoor and outdoor seating, and a museum shop. The Michelin Guide has ranked the institution as the most popular museum in the American South with 200,000 annual visitors;  its popularity is set to increase with the stunning new architecture now rivalling the artistic treasures displayed  inside. 

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