Stairway to Heaven: Fascinating New Salvador Dalí Exhibition Begins U.S. Tour

Patrons at Louisiana’s Hilliard University Art Museum explore Dalí’s works at the opening for the exhibition “Salvador Dalí’s Stairway to Heaven.”

Salvador Dalí is one of the most famous artists of the 20th century, but there are far more aspects to the artist’s career than just his notoriously mind-bending paintings.

This summer, an exciting new museum exhibition begins touring the United States aimed at calling attention to Dalí’s revolutionary work in the field of book illustration.

The exhibition, “Salvador Dalí’s Stairway to Heaven,” features complete portfolios of Dalí’s illustrations for two of his most ambitious publishing projects—his artwork for unforgettable editions of Dante’s “The Divine Comedy” and Comte de Lautréamont’s “Les Chants de Maldoror.”

“Salvador Dalí’s Stairway to Heaven” at Louisiana’s Hilliard University Art Museum

“Salvador Dalí’s Stairway to Heaven” is sponsored by the Park West Foundation. It opened at the Hilliard University Art Museum in Lafayette, Louisiana on June 8 and will complete its museum tour in February 2021. The exhibition was organized by Carole Sorell, Inc. and curated by David S. Rubin.

“We are thrilled to bring this intriguing exhibition to respected art institutions across the nation,” says Diane Pandolfi, Park West Foundation Director. “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.”

A guest considers Dalí’s take on Dante’s “Divine Comedy” at the Hilliard Art Museum’s opening for “Salvador Dalí’s Stairway to Heaven.”


Comparing Dalí’s Illustrative Works

“Dalí’s Stairway to Heaven” presents the portfolios of these two monumental illustration projects side-by-side, allowing visitors to trace Dalí’s evolution as an artist.

Each project comes from a different era in Dalí’s life. He completed his 43 illustrations for “Les Chants de Maldoror” in the 1930s when Dalí was proudly identifying himself as a Surrealist. At the time, the subject matter was ideal for Dalí. The poetic non-linear novel was all about a man who had denounced God, humanity, and conventional morality.

“Divine Comedy—Purgatory 8: Les anges gardiens de la vallee” (Guardian Angels of the Valley, 1959-1963), Salvador Dalí. From the “Stairway to Heaven” exhibition.

Dalí first became involved in the project after Pablo Picasso told Swiss publisher Albert Skira that Dalí would be the perfect artist to illustrate a new edition of Lautréamont’s book.

When Dalí illustrated Dante Alighieri’s “The Divine Comedy” two decades later, he was a much different man. By the 1950s, he had renounced Surrealism and embraced Catholicism. Thus, Dante’s famous story of a man traversing the levels of Christianity’s Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise held special meaning for Dalí.

“Divine Comedy—Inferno 34: Apparition de Dite” (The Ghost Spoken Of, 1951-1964), Salvador Dalí. From the “Stairway to Heaven” exhibition.

“Dalí explores subjects that were significant to him personally and, in both works, he self-identifies with the central characters, Maldoror and Dante,” says David S. Rubin, curator of the exhibition.


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.

Crowd circulates at the opening night for “Salvador Dalí’s Stairway to Heaven” at Louisiana’s Hilliard University Art Museum.


One of the galleries featuring “Salvador Dalí’s Stairway to Heaven” at Louisiana’s Hilliard University Art 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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