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The Dali Connection

Not many can say that they grew up surrounded by the late Surrealist master, Salvador Dali, but Christine Argillet can.  

The Dali Connection

Not many can say that they grew up surrounded by art, creativity and the late Surrealist master, Salvador Dali. Dazzlyn Koh speaks to the lucky one — CHRISTINE ARGILLET — to find out more about the iconic artist
As a child, Christine Argillet was fascinated by the artistic world, no doubt influenced by the collaborative projects between Salvador Dali and her father, renowned publisher Pierre Argillet. Now, the efforts of those projects (all signed and authenticated by Dali) are being showcased in the exhibition Salvador Dali: The Argillet Collection, which is being held for the first time in Asia at Singapore's RedSea Gallery for private acquisition.
You knew Salvador Dali personally. What was he like?
Salvador Dali was a charming and elegant man, though very simple in private. In public, he would create an eccentric persona so that all cameras would be turned toward his direction.
Can you give an example?
There was an incident in the late 1960s: Dali was in his Parisian hotel, Le Meurice, surrounded by a crowd of designers, journalists, scientists and my father as he finished up an etchings project. The telephone rang and the hotel receptionist informed them that an old lady wanted to meet Dali to sign a petition against torture. Dali, being a gentleman, accepted a brief meeting. Two minutes later, the suite door opened and an old lady entered with her index finger pointed towards Dali, interrupting us all and saying: “Dali, I want you to sign this petition against torture.” Dali answered: “But Madame, I love torture.” It was all over the newspapers the next day.
You grew up watching Dali at work. What left the deepest impression on you?
He was capable of using any tool to create art — scissors, roulette, nails, fire, even a hairbrush. The way he could use almost anything gave me a great sense of freedom when it comes to art. It also imparted the necessity of work.
Why do you think Dali remains such an icon today in the art world?
First, he had an exceptional imagination and would translate the Surrealist idea of the Dream in an unprecedented way — just look at his famed Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee. Second, his technique was as good as those of the artists of the Renaissance; he created a world that was both evocative and unique. Also, Dali opened the way for Andy Warhol and many other artists.
How would you describe the relationship between Dali and your father?
They both had strong characters. Their relationship was passionate but sometimes a little difficult; my father would facilitate the projects but Dali would require the impossible at times. But at the end of the day, they still had immense respect for each other.
Your father was an avid art collector. How has his passion influenced you?
My father's collecting of art was as natural and necessary as breathing. As a child, many paintings would constantly arrive at our house. I developed the ability to look at a painting and it would “speak” to me. This habit has continued until today where I would allow an artwork to speak to me before I decide to add it to my collection — there must be a connection.
What are your thoughts on movements such as Dadaism, futurism and surrealism?
They are the grandparents of contemporary art. I am a fan of these movements because they have completely changed our perception of art.
What should we look out for at the exhibition?
There will be over 100 artworks but look out for the etching techniques by Dali — these are fabulous. They are so close to the [works] of Rembrandt or Goya. The gallery will also present a few rare watercolors and Aubusson tapestries.
Photos / Christine Argillet
Salvador Dali: The Argillet Collection will be exhibited at the RedSea Gallery from March 22 to April 20.