Salvador Dali's Dream of Venus: The Surrealist Funhouse from the 1939 World's Fair

Salvador Dali's Dream of Venus: The Surrealist Funhouse from the 1939 World's Fair

by Ingrid Schaffner
     
 

Life Magazine wrote that one funhouse at the 1939 World's Fair stood out among the others:

"Dal's Dream of Venus, the creation of famed Surrealist painter Salvador Dal, is the most recent addition to the still-growing list of amusement-area girl shows and easily the most amazing. Weird building contains a dry tank and a wet tank. In the wet tank girls swim under

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Overview

Life Magazine wrote that one funhouse at the 1939 World's Fair stood out among the others:

"Dal's Dream of Venus, the creation of famed Surrealist painter Salvador Dal, is the most recent addition to the still-growing list of amusement-area girl shows and easily the most amazing. Weird building contains a dry tank and a wet tank. In the wet tank girls swim under water, milk a bandaged-up cow, tap typewriter keys which float like seaweed. Keyboard of piano is painted on the recumbent female figure made of rubber. In dry tank...a sleeping Venus reclines in 36-foot bed, covered with white and red satin, flowers, and leaves. Scattered about the bed are lobsters frying on beds of hot coals and bottles of champagne....All this is most amusing and interesting."

The building's modern, expressionistic exterior, with an entrance framed by a woman's legs, and shocking interior, including the bare-breasted "living liquid ladies" who occupied the tanks, caused quite a stir. The funhouse was so successful that it reopened for a second season, but once torn down it faded from memory and its outlandishness became the stuff of urban myth. Now, more than 60 years later, a collection of photographs of the Dream of Venus by Eric Schaal has been discovered. In stunning black-and-white and early Kodachrome, they show both the construction and the completion of the funhouse-from Dal painting a melting clock to showgirls parading for their audience. Salvador Dal's Dream of Venus reveals not only an eccentric work of architecture, but also a one-of-a-kind creation by one of the most fertile imaginations of the 20th century.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The 1939 World's Fair in New York celebrated Art Deco design and provided a vision of a technology-driven future. Yet a funhouse designed by Salvador Dali provided a truly surreal experience for visitors. Curator and writer Schaffner (Julien Levy: Portrait of an Art Gallery) tells the amazing and troubled story of how this combination of art and commerce came to be. The black-and-white and Kodachrome images, taken more than 60 years ago by German photographer Schaal (1905-94), illustrate the long-since-destroyed building and its interior. Symbolic images common to surrealist art abound, from the use of Botticelli's Birth of Venus on the facade to the birdcage-bodied figures and arid landscape murals inside. The outside of the building was covered with coral-shaped protrusions and a variety of female torsos. Beyond the frequent use of nude female figure sculptures, the presence of numerous topless female performers proved most controversial. The book's audience may be limited to those fascinated by Surrealism, but, as the only book to document this little-known creation, it is highly recommended for libraries with extensive art collections.-Eugene C. Burt, Seattle Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781568983592
Publisher:
Princeton Architectural Press
Publication date:
11/01/2002
Pages:
144
Product dimensions:
11.00(w) x 12.50(h) x 0.87(d)

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