The Avant-garden

The Avant-garden
On the waterfront of Tampa Bay, The Dalí Museum’s Avant-garden was inspired by our local flora and Salvador Dalí’s fascination with duality, art and nature, the Apollonian and the Dionysian. Dalí was born and lived much of his life on the Costa Brava, and as the name “Fierce Coast” implies, his homeland is rocky and severe. It is swept by a wind called the Tramontana, which blows south from the Pyrenees. Wind and rain have scoured the land and sculpted the metamorphic rocks into eccentric shapes. These stones are so central to Dalí’s work that we have made them an important element of our Garden. One of these rocks, a solitary boulder of metamorphic pegmatite, was gifted to the Museum by the Mayor and the people of Cadaqués, Spain, and is placed in central position in the East Garden.

The Dalí Dome
Dalí’s art comes to life like never before in The Dalí Museum’s Dalí Alive 360°, an immersive experience celebrating the life and creative genius of one of the most influential and inventive artists of the modern era. This multi-sensory art experience envelops visitors in 360 degrees of light and sound within a monumental new Museum space: The Dalí Dome.

The Wish Tree
As an homage to our community’s heartfelt hopes and wishes, The Dalí’s new Wish Tree has been planted in the Museum’s north garden, following Hurricane Ian’s devastating effects on the existing tree. Once acclimated, the Museum will return the whimsical ribbons and strings upon the branches for visitors to once again place their wishes.

The Golden Ratio
Dalí was fascinated by the way mathematics reveals a hidden order in the world. Even today, many artists and architects work in reference to the proportions that were observed and mathematically calibrated in antiquity. There is an uncanny correspondence between what we perceive intuitively and what conforms to mathematical principles. One proportion in particular has been so highly valued that it is called the “golden ratio.” A dramatic demonstration of this proportion is to be found in the pavers on the patio of the East Garden directly under the Enigma’s Bay Vista. A large rectangle is formed by pavers of several hues, approximately 20 by 32 feet. One unique feature of this shape is that when a square section is removed, the remainder is another gold rectangle. At each intersection of the spiral and the square, we have inscribed one of the numbers of Fibonacci sequence.

Sculptures
As an ode to Dalí’s iconic mustache, a 17-foot mustache sculpture created by local artist Donald Gialanella adorns the Garden. To ensure its longevity, Gialanella used CorTEN steel, a special alloy that forms a thin oxidized patina that protects the material from corrosion. He designed around the principle of parallax, featuring a series of parallel profile plates, so that the appearance of the sculpture changes based on the vantage point of the viewer. Tampa Steel & Supply sponsored this surreal installation as part of its service to the Tampa Bay region, which began in 1983.

Along with the mustache are four bronze sculptures Dalí conceived between 1973-1975: Christ of St. Jon of the Cross, Terpischore (Muse of Dance), Carmen Castanets and Winged Triton.

The Grotto
Florida was given its name by its early Spanish explorers, meaning “flowered.” The cantilevered entry to the building is indeed full of flowers. Crossing the little bridge over the pond that collects from the dripping and immense stone supporting this corner of the building, one can feel the transformation of which water is the symbol. You enter here into a different world, to a degree washed of your past. This is a place of a different order; it tells us to be ready for reversals of expectation. And yet it is a calm place, destined for reflection. One can sit on the numerous benches carved from limestone and named for donors to The Dalí.

Fountain of Youth
Walking through the Grotto to the north face of the Great Stone, you see air plants that take all their nutrients from the air and rain. There, at waist level, is a spigot: place your hand under it and out pours water from the fountain of youth. Nearby, a plaque reads: “Under this ground are pooled the legendary waters of St. Petersburg’s Fountain of Youth. Ponce de Leon searched for these waters in the 16th century as the Old World looked to the New World for replenishment. Inspired by this legend, St. Petersburg’s great benefactor, Edwin H. Tomlinson, tapped into this sulfurous spring in 1900.” Similarly, Salvador Dalí tried to replenish the World of Art as he thought art had lost its vitality. Considering himself an explorer and a savior of modern art, he sought to restore art’s vigor through his use of dreamlike images and realistic representation.


The Garden was encouraged by former treasurer of The Dalí Museum, William Hough, and individual donors. It was expanded with the help of Michael Van Valkenberg, landscape architects Graham-Booth and Yann Weymouth and The Dalí staff. The Garden has come into its beautiful fullness, thanks to the green thumbs of Security Director Dave Portilia, Gustavo Vargas and Nicole Matwijczyk.