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Why the Dali Museum is in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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Industrialist A. Reynolds Morse and wife Eleanor began collecting Dali pieces in 1942 when they befriended Salvador and Gala, during their U.S. hiatus (1940-48). For the next 40 years the Morse’s assembled the largest private Dali art collection in the world.

Until 1971 the collection was displayed in the couple’s Cleveland (Ohio) home. Years later it was moved to Reynolds’ (Injection Molder Supply Company) office building in Beachwood, Ohio. By the mid 1970’s the collection, once again, outgrew its home thus a search for a permanent location began. The Morse’s stipulation for donating the collection was to keep it intact; therefore most of the large, well known museums were literally, out of the picture.

On January 18, 1980 St. Petersburg attorney James W. Martin came across the Morse’s unusual request in a Wall Street Journal article: “U.S. Art World Dillydallies over Dali.” He organized a dynamic group of community leaders who flew to Ohio and presented the Morse’s with a plan to find a suitable location for their collection. On a visit to St. Petersburg, the Morse’s accepted an idea to remodel a marine warehouse on Bayboro Harbor, a location that reminded them of Dali’s childhood home on the Mediterranean. ….. and THAT is how and why on March 10, 1982 the first Dali Museum opened to the public in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Fast-forward thirty years, January 11, 2011, to the opening of the new, modern, Salvador Dali Museum. Overlooking Tampa Bay, the striking building is a concrete trapezoid wrapped in undulating waves of glass and steel. The curving dome – “Glass Enigma” – is composed of 1,062 glass triangles, no two identical.  Another architectural feat is a soaring spiral staircase of solid concrete that’s a nod to Dali’s fascination with the double-helical structure of the DNA. The section which houses Dali’s art is enclosed within a foot thick concrete in all directions. Standing over 75’ high, the new structure can weather a direct hit from a hurricane – withstand a category 5 – and open its doors to the public the following day.

Salvador Dali, born Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dali i Doménech, Marquid de Púbol in Figueres, Spain (May 11, 1904) was known for his eccentric, attention-grabbing, indulgent, unusual and grandiose behavior, would without a doubt be thrilled with the new museum that houses:  96 of his oil paintings (8 masterworks), 125 of his drawings and watercolors, 2,500 of his prints and photographs, 250 of his objets d’art, and a library with 5,000 books either about him or his works.

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