When Salvador Dalí Puts On – and Angrily Demolishes – A Window in New York City (1939) ( News New York )

If you want to understand the history of art in America in the twenty-ninth century, you cannot pass the corner of Fifth Avenue and 56th Street in New York. No, not Trump Tower, but the building it replaced: Bonwit Teller, a luxury department store that had stood on the site since 1929. Then as now, every Fifth Avenue store has a way to set itself apart, and by 1939 Bonwit Teller had built a “reputation that Manhattan We’ve shown the screwiest window.” He says so Time magazine, covering a minor debacle that year over one of the institutions by “the world’s No. 1 surrealist, Salvador Dalí.”

Dalí had already put on Bonwit Teller’s windows without incident in 1936, riding high on the buzz from his first American exhibition that same year. When invited back by the store to create a new display, writes Tim McNeese in Salvador DalíHe decided to use the windows to depict Narcissus complex divided into day and night. “In the window of the newspaper Narcissus is impersonated,” says the story of Art. “Three hands holding wax mirrors reached from the bathtub lined with black lamb and filled with water. A mannequin entered the tub in a small dress with green feathers. For a night window, the legs of the back bed are replaced by buffalo legs, and the cover is topped with a dove’s head eating. The wax mannequin is close to the bed. He sat on the coals.

As for the public reaction, he writes in New York TimesThe words “Michael Pollak” were exchanged, not all complimentary, and the store staff made quick changes. The skinny-dipper in ‘the day’ is quickly replaced by the costume mannequin. He went out sleeping in the ‘Night’; and standing in the example “. Dalí took corrective action as soon as he saw it in illegal behavior. McNeese brings the artist’s memory of the events: He shot through the window when I pushed him and I was very upset afterwards.

Dalí was inordinately accused, but he issued a suspended sentence, because, as the judge said, “These are the privileges that an artist seems to enjoy by temperament.” Nothing like what Andy Warhol did when Bonwit Teller later dressed up the windows, writes iD’s Briony Wright, though “A commission for the supply department in 1961 brought what could be considered his big break. The same windows also became opportunities for a host of other artists, including Sari Dienes, James Rosenquist, Jasper Johns, and Robert Rauschenberg, the last two of whom collaborated on the Maston Jones exhibition. They had their reasons for pseudonyms, but the artist of unique sensibility Dalí knows that you should not turn down the opportunity to get your name on Fifth Avenue.

Related content:

When Salvador Dali Met Sigmund Freud and Changed Freud’s Mind About Surrealism (1938)

When Salvador Dalí’s Surrealist Funhouse was created at the New York World’s Fair (1939)

Salvador Dalí Surreal since 1950 America: See his appearances in my line What? (1952) and The Mike Wallace Interview (1958)

When Salvador Dalí Created Christmas Cards for Hallmark Too Avant Garde (1960)

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and blogsty on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books about Cities; book The Stateless City: Walk Through 21st-Century Los Angeles and video series A city on film. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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