The Boro Beat: Delightful, risque Dalí exhibit opens at QMA

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I went to the Queens Museum of Art last Thursday night, and I was absolutely stunned at how much the place had changed in the last few weeks.

I had just been there at the end of May, and I had seen an exhibit featuring photographs of third-world-nation children and another one featuring walls covered in Arabic script.

But when I entered the museum Thursday, what I saw was very different.

The museum was premiering its latest exhibit, “Dreams of Venus,” a photo and sketch exhibit of Salvador Dali’s “Dreams of Venus” building constructed for the 1939 New York World’s Fair. The exhibit contained hundreds of photographs, many of nude or semi-nude women who modeled for the exhibit.

The pictures range from the absurd — a woman with a mask across her rear and a lobster on her head — to the serious, such as one of Dali, slightly unshaven and holding a cigarette between his lips, working on finishing touches of a sculpture cast from a mold of another female nude.

To be honest, there’s a great deal of nudity in this exhibit, but it seems there was a great deal of nudity at the World’s Fair. After all, a second part of this exhibit is a display of artifacts and photos from the fair. Take it from me, there was flesh shaking all over Flushing Meadows 74 years ago.

I speak of the nudity only as a warning for those who may be put off by the general concept of it. I’m sure anybody involved in the exhibit feels sorry for offense, but for those whose lips don’t purse in a pout at the thought of beautiful human bodies, attendance of the exhibit is a must.

A 40-foot wall in the museum has been painted with a scaled mural of the façade of the “Dreams of Venus” building in the Amusement Zone at the fair. The pictures contain fantastic images of the creation of Dali’s 1939 exhibit and offer slight peeks into the mind of this surreal genius.

I have often taken Dali’s work on a canvas or in sculpture much the way I view Hunter Thompson’s (“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”) writing. The story he tells may be made up and may make no sense from beginning to end, but it leaves you with a feeling. For Thompson, the tales often involve guns, drugs, obscene characters and delicate negotiations with police resulting in a feeling of dread, regret, loss, joy or euphoria.

In Dali’s work, the images he creates make little sense but convey so much. After all, a piece entitled “Automobile Giving Birth to a Blind Horse Biting a Telephone” is almost literally what it sounds like. But seeing it, I got a feel for how industry has trampled nature in the name of progress — strong stuff for 1939, I guess.

Of course, the entire exhibit is not about technology, progress or even nudity, for that matter. It is simply a glimpse into the creative process of the surrealist master.

When I spoke to the museum’s Executive Director Tom Finkelpearl, he was beaming with pride over “Dreams of Venus.” He has only been with the museum for about a year, and he has a strong vision of where the museum is headed.

Finkelpearl said the Queens Museum of Art should be the leading museum in the borough, taking hold of the strengths within the borough.

“We can’t do a show like MoMA with Picasso. We just can’t do it. We don’t have the resources,” he said.” What we have is the place.”

Finkelpearl noted that the museum is the only remaining building from the 1939 New York World’s Fair and that it is home to one of the greatest collections of World’s Fair memorabilia — not just for 1939 but also the 1964-1965 fair as well.

Also in the Dali exhibit are some original watercolors and sketches made by the artist that are owned by an Astoria man who knew Dali. These items take up another room as a tangent to the exhibition.

Overall, the exhibit is a sensation — and the dramatic preview held last Thursday, replete with Spanish ambassadors, a visit by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and some tasty tapas and hors d’oeuvres, made for an excellent evening.

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