In 1943, A. Reynolds and Eleanor Morse purchased their first Dalí painting, Daddy Longlegs of the Evening, Hope! (1940). Not only did the couple build a lifelong friendship with the Dalí’s, but they collected his work for over 40 years. The Morse’s collection of Dalí’s work would provide the foundation for the current collection which contains over 2,100 works of every medium Dalí experimented with including oil paintings, original drawings, book illustrations, artists’ books, prints, sculpture, photos, manuscripts and an extensive archive of documents.
But how did the collection find its home in St. Petersburg? In the 1970’s, the Morses decided they wanted to donate their entire collection and it was only in St. Petersburg, Florida that there was enough community support to relocate the entirety of the collection. The original building opened in 1982, which now belongs to USF – St. Petersburg. The distinguished new Dalí Museum opened January 11th, 2011. This new space enables the museum to better protect and display the collection, to welcome the public, and to educate and promote enjoyment.
The current Dalí building has some unique features that have made it a landmark in St. Petersburg. The most notable feature would be the free form geodesic dome called The Enigma. It is made up of over 1,062 triangular pieces and stands at 75-feet-tall at its highest point. This dome is a direct homage to Dalí’s Teatro Museo in Spain. Eleanor Morse wished that the new location would have a geodesic structure like Dalí’s museum in Spain. The museum’s cement exterior is secure and protective for hurricane conditions to properly protect the collection.
Inside the museum, visitors will climb up the unique architectural feature, the helical staircase, which is a reference Dalí’s fascination with the double helix DNA molecule. On the first floor, visitors can enjoy lunch in Café Gala which serves Spanish-inspired cuisine. The theater is also located on the first floor where films and special presentations are held almost weekly. The first floor also features the education classroom where children can make art. On the second floor, the museum library contains unique resources for students, scholars, and professionals to use for research. The third floor contains two gallery wings, the James Family wing with the permanent collection and the Hough Family wing with special exhibitions.
Outside the museum, the Avant Garden provides a tranquil and serene place for visitors relax after wandering through the exhibits. It’s key feature is the labyrinth, inviting visitors to wonder and explore. It also features many Dalí inspired sculptures throughout the garden that visitors are able to take pictures with, and a wishing tree where visitors tie their visiting bands.