Monday, December 3, 2007

Salvador Dali and the Defenestrating Bathtub



According to Mary Portas in her book, The Art of Retail Display, Salvador Dali was commissioned by the New York store Bonwit Teller to create two window pastiches exploring the myth of Narcissus.

Dali, the eternal optimist, responded with a mannequin propped in a bathtub full of muddy water, crying blood tears, and surrounded by hundreds of hanging hands holding mirrors (What would Ovid say?). The store deemed Dali's interpretation too extreme for its windows, and ordered him to take it down. According to Portas, Dali slipped while emptying the bathtub, which then sent the latter crashing through the store window and onto 5th Ave. Never losing out on the chance for a spectacle, Dali supposedly dove after it (out the window and onto 5th Ave).


(Perhaps the precursor to Dali's myth of Narcissus)

Simon Doonan, the legendary head window dresser at Barney's, recounts the story differently. According to his version, store employees were instructed to take the display down so as to spare the surrealist's feelings, but when he found out what had happened, Dali pushed the bathtub through the window in a fit of rage.

I was unable to confim which version was true, but either way, a muddy bathtub and a bloody mannequin were defenestrated onto 5th Ave! Bergdorf's hasn't done that.


(Dali's Backyard)

My inkling: I've been to Dali's house in Figueras, and judging by the rather strange objects that still remain in it, most notably his large collection of taxidermied animals, I am more convinced by the second version.

1 comment:

velisha said...

Fabulous! Dali just knew how to navigate that fine line between the dramatic and the melodramatic. We could sure use some more characters like him today.