English 391W: Dreams

Salvador Dalí’s Dream of Venus

April 19, 2010 · 2 Comments

Dalí’s Dream of Venus (1939 World’s Fair, Flushing, NY); Front Exterior, Entrance and Ticket Booth

Dalí built the Dream of Venus for the 1939 World’s Fair, right here in Flushing. The entrance is pictured above. Notice a cutout of Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” (c. 1482) overlooking fair-goers, whow would have to pass through the giant pair of woman’s legs and purchase their tickets at the fish head ticket booth that extends beneath them. As you scroll through the images below, you’ll see a lot of images familiar already from Dalí’s personal iconography.

Dalí wasn’t satisfied with the results of the installation. It had been compromised by the process and by limitations imposed by the administrators and politicians behind the World’s Fair. Nonetheless, he brought surrrealism to the masses–with a sense of humor and a characteristic penchant for violating taboos. Dalí’s installation is conceived as an artistic version of a “girlie show,” the kind audiences would have been familiar with from traveling carnivals. The framework of the dream justifies Dalí’s use of live nudes and bizarre imagery. He called his method the “paranoiac critical.” In his essay “The Conquest of the Irrational,” Dalí defined the method as the “spontaneous method of irrational knowledge based on the interpretative critial association of delirious phenomena” (49). Basically, Dalí wanted to emphasize the mind’s ability to form associations between apparently unrelated images and ideas–and therefore make meaning out of them. The “paranoia” is the making of seemingly meaningless associations, adn the “critical” is making meaning out of them.

With Dream of Venus, he brought this method to unsuspecting audiences enjoying the spectacle of the World’s Fair. Imagine yourself at a fair and stumbling through those giant legs to witness the stream of images below (and many more). The experience may have felt a little like a waking dream.

Work Cited

Dalí, Salvador, “The Conquest of the Irrational,” 1936. Reprinted in Salvador Dali: A Panorama of His Art, ed. A. Reynolds Morse. Cleveland, Ohio: Salvador Dali Museum, 1974.


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Categories: Art Projects · Dreams

2 responses so far ↓

  •   Veronica Shine // Oct 11th 2011 at 6:27 am

    Although way before my time, my family spoke of the NY 1939 Worlds Fair. However, I had no idea that Dali was involved with some wonderful creations. Great article!!!!

  •   W.A. Klinger // Nov 26th 2011 at 7:32 am

    See cover of “The New Yorker” – February 24th, 1940.

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