The relationship between Dalí and the city of Barcelona has always been controversial and difficult. Although in love with Cadaqués and La Costa Brava, he spent an important part of his life in Barcelona. Often polemical in his actions and statements, many intellectuals from the city didn’t sympathise with him. Even now, many years after his death, Barcelona doesn’t have a street or a square named after him, something quite meaningful. From ShBarcelona we explore these contradictions and find the places in the city where he spent time while he was around.
Related article: The Dali Museum in Figueres, a must
Expert Ricard Mas, in his book Dalí and Barcelona, explores the relationship and claims that “We haven’t quite understood Dali’s sense of humour here”. He argues that he spent a significant part of his days in the city during his early age and youth days, as he had many connections here and his family was mostly from Barcelona. In his book, Mas details the places Dali visited (in his youth and later on, after the war), the shops he frequented and other locations he knew well. He also claims that his relationship with the city is now a bit better than when he died, in 1989: “When he died in 1989 everybody thought he was a clown, people had no consideration for him. The only thing that was valued was that he was a good drawer and his surrealist period (…) But with time this image has improved and today Dalí is one of the great ones.” Dali’s rejection of Catalan nationalism, his assimilation by Franco’s regime and his support of Catholicism after the 40’s didn’t help either. His conferences in the Ateneu (an institution to promote and preserve Catalan culture) were often controversial. In 1930, for example, he insulted Angel Guimerà calling him a pederast and a pig and proposed the demolition of the Gothic quarter. However, when he came back from the States in the 50’s, he reconciled with the Ateneu institution and his intellectuals with a new conference, in which he took back his previous statements.
Proof of the city’s indifference to the surrealist genius is the fact that there’s no public space named after him, although this is meant to change, since a big square in the Sagrera area has been planned for that purpose (the original plan dates back from 2003 but still hasn’t materialised). Another sign is the lack of important permanent works of Dali in the city, they all went to the Figueres and Cadaqués museums during the negotiations between the Culture Ministry and the Catalan Generalitat government. The relationship cannot be so easily reduced to hate though, because apart from the several places and spots that Dalí enjoyed and loved in Barcelona, he was one of the first and most notorious ambassadors of Gaudí and modernism around the world.
Following Dali’s tracks
As a child, Dali visited his uncle in his bookshop Llibreria Verdaguer, located in La Rambla, opposite the Liceu (the old bookshop is now a Café). As an adult and already a famous artist, he used to exhibit his works in Galeria Dalmau (Consell de Cent street 349), or give the well-known conferences mentioned before in L’Ateneu (Canuda street 6). He also enjoyed staying with his wife Gala in the Ritz Hotel (today called El Palace and with the suite where he used to sleep named after him, in Gran Via 668), and host parties and art events there. In one of them Dali brought a stuffed horse as a gift for Gala. He also liked to eat in many of the elegant restaurants of the city: Set Portes, Via Veneto, Perellada, Windsor, Els Cargols, Quo Vadis or La Orotava; and enjoyed flamenco and rumba shows in tablaos around the city. Another of his fascinations was Copito de Nieve (Snowflake, the albino gorilla that lived in the Barcelona zoo all his life) and went often to visit him. For one of his birthdays, Dali even bought a big cake and a bride mannequin for the gorilla.
Today, no major works of art can be seen in the city permanently, just a hidden gem: his paintings in the ceiling of the Palacete Albéniz, only open to the general public in special occasions.