Dalí: art or kitsch

Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, Marquis of Dalí de Púbol, known as Salvador Dalí, is a Spanish painter in the 1900s. He is best known for his paintings, drawings, photography, sculpture, writing, film and jewellery. The Persistence of Memory is his best known work. Dalí’s work is really one of its kind. It is very controversial and abstract; his paintings are a paradox compared to the world as we know it. Some people say his work is so different that it questions arose whether or not it can actually be considered to be art or if it is kitsch.

What is art?
To be able to answer that question, it is important to know when anything can be looked at as art. There are many different forms of art, for example; architecture, cinema, dance, graffiti, music, painting, photography, poetry, sculpture, singing, theatre and writing. You also have some requirements. There is not one list of facts to cross off before you have art, everyone has their own set of rules. However, the basics are alike. For something to be considered as art it has to touch the audience on an emotional level, art makes you feel something. It can be wonder or cynicism, hope or despair, adoration or spite, it can be any feeling at all. As long as it evokes an emotion in you, that is the prime condition that has to be met. If something is art it is not necessarily beautiful “Beauty can be found in a snowy mountain scene: art is the photograph of it shown to family, the oil interpretation of it hung in a gallery”. Art is about who has produced it, it is only art if the maker intended it to be so. And its subjects are only bound by the artist imagination. They may be direct or complex, subtle or explicit, intelligible or obscure: whatever the artist wishes. On the other hand, the other institutions of art also have a say in what is art or kitsch. If the critics and art historians do not regard it as art it is not. A work of art is created to be presented to an art-world public. Art is the communication method between an artist and his or her audience. Art makes a meaning beyond language, it helps where language is not sufficient enough to explain. It asks a question which a non-art object does not. Not any painting is a work of art, art is special and it stands out. The obligation of a painting is to create a different view of the world or states an opinion by fulfilling an aesthetic function.

Dalí’s work
In total Salvador Dalí has made over 1300 works. Most of the works he did were paintings and sculptures. He has also worked as a graphic artist, designer, a filmmaker and jeweller. So it can be said that during the course of his career he experimented with many different forms of art. He also experimented with a few painting styles like cubism, futurism and metaphysical during his time at art school. All those experiments allowed him to further his points of expression. Most of his works are surrealistic and in them he realizes the dreams and imaginations of his mind with hallucinatory characters, he was changing the real world the way he wanted and not necessarily what it was. He was able to create this content by forms of mental exercises of accessing the subconscious parts of the mind to have an artistic inspiration. Just before he was going to paint he would stand on his head, so all the blood would flow to his brain, long enough that he would start to feel light headed and start to hallucinate. Another method he used was to sit in a chair with a pan and a knife in his hands, while he was trying to fall asleep. Just before you fall in a deep sleep you reach the subconscious part of your brain. When he would fall asleep he would drop the pan and knife so he would scare awake. Then he would paint or sculpt what he had seen in his subconscious mind. Salvador Dalí considered dreams and imagination as central rather than marginal to human thought. He embraced the surrealist theory of automatism. “The fact that I myself, at the moment of painting, do not understand my own pictures, does not mean that these pictures have no meaning; on the contrary, their meaning is so profound, complex, coherent, and involuntary that it escapes the most simple analysis of logical intuition.” Another subject for his works was an approach on sexual objects, and many images he created were of his wife Gala. She was his muse. On the contrary of his works of art which were very obscure, the techniques he used were actually traditional. For paintings he used oil paint on canvas, and that is very common.

Art or kitsch?
When compared with the criteria set out for works of art, Salvadore Dalí almost meets all of them. I assume that Salvador Dalí made his paintings and other works to present them as art, or to tell a story or message to the public. That is one rule. His artworks are used as a second language to explain to the people how his ideal world looks like and what his subconscious is made of. It is something which cannot be explained with human words, it is too complicated, too unrealistic. That is the second rule. I speak from experience when I say that the paintings make you feel something, they make you think, they make you want to uncover the hidden message if there even is one. So that is rule number three. His works are not necessarily beautiful, but they capture something beautiful. It is his mind, his thoughts, which Dalí puts on paper or sculpts in stone or depicts with other objects.

In defiance of not always understanding his work people seem to like it. And that is understandable considering that he is hallucinating most of the times, but that also makes it look like some sort of a fairy tale. Although his creations are crazy looking, they are considered to be art. The established checklist for art is completely crossed off, there might be criteria which are missing but it all checks out in the big picture.

Salvador Dalí is for sure an ARTist.


What makes something art?