The mercurial Salvador Dali died twenty-five years ago this year. In the coming fall, the Winnipeg Art Gallery will be exhibiting major works by the famed Spanish Surrealist for the first time in its history. Canvases by the artist, including the massive and rarely traveled Santiago El Grande, will be appearing in two exhibitions at the WAG, Masterworks from the Beaverbrook Art Gallery and a second show focused on the Surrealist master. Both exhibitions will open September 27 at Nuit Blanche, the WAG’s annual all-night celebration of the arts (the largest of its kind in Winnipeg), and run until January 25, 2015.
Masterworks from the Beaverbrook Art Gallery will provide visitors with access to an uncompromising selection of 75 exceptional paintings spanning four centuries of European and Canadian art. These works, originally amassed by the Canadian-born businessman, media mogul, and confidant of the rich and famous William Maxwell Aitken (aka Lord Beaverbrook), constitute one of North America’s unparalleled collections. Thomas Gainsborough, Joshua Reynolds, and George Romney—heavyweights of British portraiture—are well represented, as are signature canvases by modern dynamos JMW Turner, James Tissot, and Augustus John, some choice Impressionist works, and a captivating early work by that giant of contemporary realism, Lucien Freud, the only painting by the British artist in a Canadian public collection.
However, in scale and substance, three masterworks by Dali—including the companion portraits of Aiken’s friend and business associate Sir James Dunn and Dunn’s third wife, as well as Santiago El Grande—form the exhibition’s unquestionable centrepiece.
Santiago El Grande is widely considered one of Dali’s most accomplished paintings. Measuring more than four meters high, it depicts the patron saint of Spain, St. James, rising from the ocean on a white horse. At once majestic and unsettling, Santiago El Grande demonstrates Dali’s great technical mastery, his deep appreciation for the history of art, as well as the disorienting dream-like quality that we have come to associate with his work.
Alongside Masterworks from the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, toward further celebrating Dali’s debut in Winnipeg, the WAG will be mounting an exhibition showcasing two distinct aspects of the Surrealist master. It will include a pair of canvases on loan from major North American institutions, each representing different periods in Dali’s career: an early Surrealist painting completed prior to 1950, and a later work indicative of his so-called “Classical” period. Secondly, the Gallery has entered negotiations toward securing the loan of some 30 photographs of the artist taken in collaboration with the well-known photographer Philippe Halsman in the early 1950s. In addition to being iconic themselves, these photographs underscore Dali’s savvy management of self-image, and anticipate both Pop and contemporary Performance art. Overall, this second exhibition will explore the artist’s use of unexpected juxtapositions to achieve disarming results.
“We are thrilled to debut Dali’s paintings in Winnipeg, and offer everyone the chance to experience the inimitable Santiago El Grande and other works by this modern master,” says Director & CEO of the WAG, Stephen Borys. “Famously immodest, Dali himself referred to the 1957 work as the greatest painting since Raphael, and Winnipeggers will see why this fall at the WAG. Without question Santiago El Grande is the one of most celebrated works by Dali in the world – and you really need to see it in person to understand why.”
Report courtesy Winnipeg Art Gallery