Les Diners de Gala Salvador Dali (1973)

Les montres molles ½ sommeil porc (Soft watches half asleep—Pork) from the Les Diners de Gala portfolio, 1971 Photolithograph and etched remarque on Japon nacré paper, edition AP 37/50, 22 x 29-1/2 inches. Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University Collection. Gift of Dr. Paul and Mrs. Beverly Cutler.

Exhibit:  August 18, 2013 – March 2, 2014

Overview

In 1973 Les Diners de Gala (Gala's Dinners) was published and instantly became a Dal collectable. Les Diners de Gala was published as a collaboration between Dalà and a secret chef. The “secret chef” being some of the top French restaurants of the day—including Lasserre, La Tour d'Argent, Maxim's and Le Buffet de la Gare de Lyon—whose chefs created the recipes, and Dalí, of course, took the glory. Their goal was to produce magnificent meals fit for a royal feast.

Dalí was not only a brilliant artist, but also, had a self-proclaimed, of course, extremely refined taste for extraordinary food and wine. Dalí's introduction to the book states that since he was a little boy he wanted to be a master-chef. At the age of 68, as a well-established artist, Dali created this book about his life-long gastronomic adventures.

Dalí conceived and materialized Les Diners de Gala as a dedication to his wife Gala, who is stylized on the golden cover. With 136 recipes in twelve categories, this collection of eccentric formulas—outlandish yet surprisingly appetizing—includes an entire chapter on aphrodisiacs, the correct use of “atteletes” (meat jewelry) and sketches of limbless dwarves eating eggs; with 55 feature recipes illustrated in color. Dalí opens with a Dante-esque warning, “Les Diners de Gala is uniquely devoted to the pleasures of taste. Do not look for dietetic formulas here.”

Dalí adds to the adventure of the book with some linguistic looseness—fictitious Dalinian words like “hors-texte” and “gastro esthetics.” In explaining his “gastro esthetics,” the artist noted, “In fact I only like to eat what has a clear intelligible form. If I hate that detestable degrading vegetable called spinach, it is because it is shapeless, like Liberty.”

In conjunction with the release of the book Dalí also produced a twelve lithograph suite titled Les Diners De Gala (printed in 1971). This portfolio, complete with a distinctive engraving in the lower margin of each work titled Spoon with Crutches, is a Surrealist twist on some of Dalí's favorite meals. These lithographs are the astounding outcome of Dalí experimentation with mixed media and are regarded as his most unique prints. With an edition size of 590 and 50 artist proofs, this portfolio is AP (artist proof) 37 of 50.

“Informed by Dalí's distinctive style, the tome presents a heady blend of hallucinatory illustrations set against surprisingly appetizing recipes. Les Diners de Gala was a tour d' force of book publishing. Long out of print, the volume is a coveted collector's item because of the outlandish recipes that capture the flavor of Dalí and Gala's unlimited imagination, dining preferences and the extraordinarily lavish way Dalí illustrated this most exceptional of cookbooks.  The flamboyant book is a veritable stroke of genius – its gold cover emblematic of how practically everything Dalí touched turned to gold.”

Dalí cleverly assembles the food in such a manner as to form a head with eyes, a pronounced nose and the suggestion of a wide mouth with a few teeth showing. Flowing over it is a long, bushy mustache. Below the main scene is an etching of a huge spoon, propped up by a crutch, reminding us it's all suitable for eating (in Dalí's false memories, discussed in his autobiography, he likened the shape of a spoon to a women in a long dress!). And we must remember that food was a favorite theme in so much of Dalí's work, his paintings, prints and other works are filled with images of bread, fish, lobsters, sea urchins, grapes, meats and more.

“It was therefore perfectly logical and perhaps long overdue that Dalí should produce a book and a print suite dedicated expressly to gastronomy—a colorful world in which Dalí's creative genius was—cooked to perfection.” With a lifelong interest in the culinary and gastronomical arts, Dalí was known to have experimented with various foodstuffs as aphrodisiacs; much like Giovanni Casanova (1725 – 1798) the Italian Bon Vivant with a notoriously delectable palate for pleasure and extravagant foods.  Dalí would eat and interact with various foods that he believed kept him in good health. He was famously rumored to have bathed in sardine oil and to have taken afternoon naps with live lobsters in his bed.  Another recipe for genius, courtesy of Salvador Dalí. Let's eat!