Salvador Dalí’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’ Comes to Atlanta

 In Art & Gallery News, Artists & Special Collections, Exhibits, Salvador Dali

The Park West Foundation’s acclaimed traveling museum exhibition, “Salvador Dalí’s Stairway to Heaven,” is continuing its tour of the United States. Until August 31, you can find the exhibition in Atlanta, Georgia at the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art.

Enjoy this inside look at the opening of “Stairway to Heaven” at the Oglethorpe and how the exhibition wonderfully contrasts two major illustration projects from different eras of Salvador Dalí’s life.

Patrons browse Dalí’s illustrations at the "Stairway to Heaven" opening at the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art.

Patrons browse Dalí’s illustrations at the “Stairway to Heaven” opening at the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art.

In the 1930s, at the recommendation of Pablo Picasso, Dalí was hired to illustrate one of the most shocking and bizarre books of the 19th century—Les Chants de Maldoror (1868-69) by the Comte de Lautréamont. The strange, often depraved novel was a perfect fit for Dalí’s Surrealist sensibility at the time.

However, later in his life, Dalí embraced religion, converting to Catholicism. So, in 1951, he embarked on a 14-year project to create original engravings illustrating Dante’s epic poem “The Divine Comedy” about the author’s travels through Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory.

A work from Dalí’s "Divine Comedy" suite.

A work from Dalí’s “Divine Comedy” suite.

Dalí’s attention to detail was meticulous in his “Divine Comedy” suite—he created over 100 watercolor studies, worked tirelessly with the publisher, and even personally approved more than 3,000 woodblocks used for the engravings. The final result was a series of 100 breathtaking engravings bringing the classic poem to life.

Discussing the inspiration behind “Stairway to Heaven,” Park West Foundation Director Diane Pandolfi said, “By exposing a fresh audience to Dalí’s illustrations, we hope to inspire curiosity, wonderment, and a new appreciation for one of history’s best-known artists.”

“Opportunities like this are really rare—to have a call from Park West Foundation to be allowed to bring the Dalí exhibition here. We are very, very grateful to the foundation,” said Oglethorpe’s museum director Elizabeth Peterson.

The campus of Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia.

The campus of Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia.

For the exhibition’s opening reception, Oglethorpe students dressed in their best Surrealist outfits. The evening featured two speakers—Albert Scaglione, Founder and CEO of Park West Gallery, and Eduard Fornés, noted Dalí scholar. Fornés actually knew Dalí personally and has written over 20 books on the artist.

Speaking about Dalí’s “Divine Comedy,” Fornés praised the collection for its “great, richness of images. In them you can see, all of the symbolism and ideas of Dalí that have evolved over his lifetime.”

Eduard Fornés at “Salvador Dalí’s Stairway to Heaven" opening in Atlanta.

Eduard Fornés at “Salvador Dalí’s Stairway to Heaven” opening in Atlanta.


How to Find Dalí’s Stairway to Heaven

“Salvador Dalí’s Stairway to Heaven” will be touring the United States through 2021. The exhibition schedule is as follows:

“Salvador Dalí’s Stairway to Heaven” is the latest in a series of museum exhibitions organized by the Park West Foundation, the nonprofit arm of Park West Gallery. All artwork in the exhibition is on loan from the Park West Museum.

For those interested in learning even more about this period of Dalí’s career, the book “Dalí—Illustrator,” written by Eduard Fornés with a foreword by Daniel David—two noted Dalí experts—presents a comprehensive history of the artist’s illustrative works.

For more information on the Park West Foundation and its museum exhibitions, click here.

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