Stepping Inside a Surreal World at the Dali Museum St. Petersburg

Dreams of Dali virtual reality tour

I don’t know about you, but from the first time I saw Salvador Dali paintings when I was in high school, I thought “Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to walk around in one of those dream worlds?

A couple weeks ago that forgotten dream came true. And it was really cool.

Technology is doing things now that would have been considered pure magic in the pre-internet days. It’s hard to forget that we’re only about two and a half decades past that point.) It felt like magic at the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida when I went from looking at paintings to going inside a painting.

Dali Museum St. Pete Florida

This is the original two-dimensional work you can see framed on a wall there. It’s a 1935 painting called Archeological Reminiscence of Millet’s “Angelus.” It’s an evocative and dramatic image on its own, but like many of Dali’s best-known paintings, it’s not physically very large.

When you step into another room for the Dreams of Dali experience though, you strap on Oculus Rift virtual reality headset and get a 360-degree view of what that world would look like. This won’t be in 3D for you, but it gives you a taste:

You get to wander around that world for three minutes and once you tune out what’s around you and immerse yourself, you really feel like you’ve entered an otherworldly place. The way the program works you don’t really walk around: that would be tougher to program but more importantly it would take a really long time to approach the structures and look around. Instead you concentrate on a dot on the screen for two seconds and get transported there. You can see the structures from different angles, including standing behind the father and son holding hands in the foreground.

Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida in Tampa BayThere are a lot of neat little touches though, like shifting sand and ants crawling around when you look down at the ground. If you go inside and look up, tilting your head, you see that view at the top and you can linger on it as you pan back and forth. You can see wherever your field of vision would be where you’re standing, so you can turn all the way around and look at what would be behind you. You can go up high on the structures and look down toward the distant ground. It’s very peaceful in there, like an interesting dream where things are surreal, but not dangerous. Perhaps there will be a sequel and those strange elephant-like creatures will attack…

Even without this virtual reality experience, the popular Dali Museum is worth a visit. Housed in a hurricane-proof building with a geodesic dome, It’s filled with some of his best work and it’s the largest museum dedicated to the artist outside of Europe. (Here’s Jennifer’s take on the one in his home town of Figures that the artist himself helped design.) If you’re on vacation on the Gulf Coast of Florida, set aside some time for a little culture. Try to come early as the place does get crowded, even on weekdays.

For more information see the Dreams of Dali section of the Dali Museum site. And as you can probably imagine, there’s a pretty cool gift shop

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