Left to right: Oree Gianacopoulos, Chali-Rosso Gallery director; James Sanders from Dali Universe (Switzerland); and Susanna Strem, president of Chali-Rosso Gallery. (photo by Shula Klinger)
May 17 and 18 saw the unveiling of two sculptures by Spanish surrealist Salvador Dali, which will be on display until September. The sculptures were brought to Vancouver by the Chali-Rosso Gallery on Howe Street, the site of the annual Definitely Dali exhibition. More than 100 Dali originals are on display at the gallery, along with 20 smaller versions of Dali’s bronzes.
On May 17, “Dalinian Dancer” was revealed at the corner of Thurlow and Alberni. “Space Venus” was unveiled on the next day at Lot 19, on West Hastings at Hornby. The unveilings were accompanied by flamenco music, which Dali loved.
Oree Gianacopoulous, Chali-Rosso’s director, spoke before the unveiling of “Space Venus.” Describing it as one of Dali’s “iconic” pieces, she expressed her gratitude to Beniamino Levi, director of Dali Universe, the foundation that lends out the artwork. Levi worked with Dali himself to develop the collection of 29 sculptures.
This is the third year that Dali sculptures have traveled to Vancouver, under the leadership of Chali-Rosso president Susanna Strem, a member of the Jewish community. Working in close collaboration with Dali Universe in Europe, which loaned the sculptures to Chali-Rosso, Strem’s initiative has helped establish a new cultural tradition for the downtown core.
This year, the gallery also worked with Virtro Games to develop a smartphone application to enhance viewers’ experience of the sculpture. Definitely Dali is an augmented reality app – when a phone camera is focused on the image of Dali’s face, the dancer begins to move her arms and spin.
Alex Lazimir, who developed the app, talked about the privilege of spending many hours looking at Dali’s dancer. “I really like this piece because it was like going into Salvador Dali’s mind. The first thing I thought was that she has to be spinning.”
After the unveilings, Chali-Rosso hosted a champagne reception and a talk by James Sanders of Dali Universe (Switzerland). With reference to the sculptures at the gallery, Sanders spoke about Dali’s life and the tremendous influence of his surreal imagination on the world of art. Sanders is responsible for sourcing locations, sponsors and partners for exhibitions all over the world.
Originally from Europe, Strem came to Canada 25 years ago, via a spell in Israel. Formerly an information technology professional, Strem spoke about the challenge of bringing world-class art to public spaces in Vancouver.
“These sculptures are traveling all over the world. They’re exhibited in many major cities. Vancouver has to compete with cities like New York, London and Paris. These are major art hubs, so we are very happy that we managed to get two sculptures.”
Last year, Definitely Dali featured “Woman in Flame” and “Surrealist Piano.” More than three million visitors saw the sculptures.
Bringing monumental works of art here is a labour of love, however. “It takes almost a year to organize something like this,” said Strem. “Last year, when we had two other sculptures here, we were already talking about this year’s exhibition. It all depends on what is available and circumstances in other cities.”
The logistics of moving bronzes like “Space Venus” – which is 3.5 metres high – can be tough. “These sculptures were transported by ocean freight from Italy, then traveled through the Atlantic to the Panama Canal, up the Pacific Ocean past Mexico and California to Vancouver,” she said. “It’s a long journey. We experienced a delay. There was a traffic jam in the Panama Canal.”
These exhibits are both the impetus for, and a sign of, urban growth – “for a real city,” said Strem, “public art is a natural part of its evolution.” She spoke of the collaboration with the Downtown Business Improvement Association. “They were full-force behind it from day one, which helped motivate us. They were really enthusiastic,” she said.
Part of Chali-Rosso’s community involvement includes supporting Recovery Through Art, a charitable organization in Vancouver that gives individuals struggling with mental illness and addiction a chance to heal through the creation and appreciation of art.
Strem is already seeing the impact of the Dali pieces on public display. “If somebody is looking at their phone and they walk by 10 times but, this time, they look up and their face changes, even for a fleeting moment, that’s important. Or they might stop for 30 minutes. There are many ways to enjoy art,” she said.
Strem explained that, to truly become part of life, art should not just be locked away in special locations.
“It’s not about having a destination for art, where you allocate time and energy to it,” she said. “When we don’t engage with art like this, in public, people are missing out.”
Shula Klinger is an author and journalist living in North Vancouver. Find out more at shulaklinger.com.