In time for the 100th anniversary of Dalís birth on May 11, 1904, German gallerist Thomas Levy has republished the book Da Da Dali, first published in 1966 and until recently available only with much luck. It features black-and-white photo-collages created by Dalí in 1966, using pictures taken by Hamburg-based fashion and lifestyle photographer Werner Bokelberg (Dalís collages were on view May 11-28, 2004, at Thomas Levy gallery in Hamburg). The book project had begun in 1965, when Bokelberg and journalist Walther Hermann Schnemann (who became editor of the original edition) visited Dalí in Spain to do a portrait of the artist for Stern magazine.
The pair first encountered Dalí in Paris, where the artist regularly resided at Hotel Meurice. Here the young reporters from Germany had to stand in line with a crowd of devotees waiting to be received by the self-proclaimed high priest of (pre-Pop) art. When finally it was their turn, Dalí first suggested that they observe him shop-lifting in his dressing-gown on the Champs-Elyses, before spontaneously inviting them to his private domicile in Port Lligat on the Costa Brava -- on one condition: that they bring with them a beautiful blonde to ignite the artists magic.
In spring of 1965 Bokelberg and Schünemann arrived at Dalís doorstep with the Danish model Lotte Tarp, who instantly became Ginesta Ophelia. It was the beginning of an eight-day creative tour de force, initiated by Dalís demand for tons of dried beans. While Ginesta was busily involved in Dalís world, the two men set off to find a lot of beans, driving around the countryside for hours, taking in dozens of stores. It was entirely absurd. Still, we were utterly fascinated, Bokelberg recalls. You never knew when Dalí was joking or being serious.
Later, Dalí had the nude model pose at the base of an empty pool together with a tame ocelot. From above he let the beans rain down on them like a flood of pearls. Throughout the week Dalí conceived a host of Surreal happenings that Bokelberg captured in photos, some of which accompanied Schnemanns subsequent story in Stern, a glossy German magazine.
A year later, the reporters visited Dalí once again in Spain. This time, the artist transformed Bokelbergs photos into a highly charged, Dadaist drama in eight acts, sifting through hundreds of pictures, redoubling, clipping and rearranging them, as well as painting and drawing new details on selected motifs. These collages were assembled by Dalí into a book and, together with wonderfully volatile confessions (noted down by Schnemann) as well as a sequence of the memorable events in spring 1965, create a unique interplay between the oblique esthetic of Surrealism and the boisterous vitality of the Swinging 60s.
In treating all genres freely, without inhibition, on an equal scale -- be they artistic or commercial -- Dalí is definitely a pioneer of cross-over tendencies in todays art practices. Thus Da Da Dali not only presents great pictures and a hilarious, sometimes even profoundly witty reading experience, but also gives insight into the multifarious artists ability to tune into changing times, while always remaining true to his highly professionalized, always self-ironic eccentric image.
The reprint (with texts in English, German, and Spanish) of Da Da Dali (original edition, Carl Schünemann Verlag, Bremen, 1966) has been published by Kerber Verlag, Bielefeld, 88 pages, 38 Dollars
BELINDA GRACE GARDNER is a Berlin-based art writer..