September 25, 2022

SALVADOR DALI, the Sewer-Realist

Dali and Babou
It is 1966. A small crowd is gathered at a hole in the ground at 41st Street and First Avenue. Windsor Tower and Tudor Tower lie in the background. Salvador Dali, famed surrealist painter, is announcing his forthcoming 'happening' at Lincoln Center's Philharmonic Hall. This is the press conference.

He is dressed in a gold lame jumpsuit and a heavy blue overcoat and carries Babou, his pet ocelot, and a walking stick with an elaborately carved head. "It's a new Dali," he says.

"Underneath Manhattan are the activities which give the city life" he continues, then bids the newsmen, soundmen, photographers, and workers to follow him underground by means of a primitive cable car. Forty feet underground, where engineers are constructing a new sewer line.

Dali was past his prime and talked on and on. Nonetheless, his best line ‒ "it's a real happening when no one knows what's happening" ‒ was used by all. And, of course, the term "sewer-realism" was also slyly mentioned.

Above, typical coverage in the Morning Call of Allentown, PA; Dali in the center holding a white cap. Below some images, more familiar, from Philippe Halsman.

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