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Salvador Dalí

The endless enigma: Dalí and the magicians of multiple meaning

The 250 puzzle pictures, revolving pictures, and distorted and double images dating from the 11th century to the present day, brought together for this exhibition (until 9 June), are ambiguous in the very best sense.

In this feast of visual trickery, exhibits include a face constructed from fruit by Giuseppe Arcimboldo, and seven female nudes arranged to form the shape of a skull by Philippe Halsmann and Salvador Dalí (above, “In voluptate mors”, 1951). Then there is an anonymous oil painting dating back to around 1600 showing the portrait of a pope which, when turned through an angle of 180 degrees, takes on the hideous features of a devil. Works from Africa, China, India and Persia spanning many centuries confirm that non-Europeans, too, enjoy baffling the viewer. For the first time, a single exhibition demonstrates how Max Ernst, Man Ray and Markus Raetz, among others, had just as much fun as previous generations of artists with this kind of deception.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 135 April 2003