|The fabled entrance to the “Dream of Venus” pavilion created by Salvador Dalí for the World’s Fair in 1939.|
Salvador Dalí was asked to create a pavilion for the World’s Fair to be held in Summer of 1939 in Flushing Meadow, Queens, NY. Given a canvas this big, as you might imagine, Dalí‘s concept for what was called “Dream of Venus” was just as over-the-top as the wildly eccentric Surrealist himself. In a letter written to his friend, Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel, Dalí reported that the pavilion would include “genuine explosive giraffes.” That never happened during the eight weeks it took to set up and construct what has been referred to as Dalí‘s “funhouse.”
The creation of the pavilion was the idea of noted architect, artist, and art collector, Ian Woodner. Woodner approached New York art dealer Julien Levy and together they quickly decided to give the gig to Dalí. As you entered the pavilion you had to pass between twin pillars that were fashioned in the image of female legs that were protruding from a skirt that had been pulled up above the knees. In various windows at the entrance, Dali placed a sculpture of a nude torso of a woman with another naked body of a woman in a window above who had a mermaid-like tail. There was also a large-scale image of Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus.” Dalí had intended to remove the head of the goddess and replace it with a fish head. This was one of many conceptual ideas the artist had intended to incorporate into the pavilion that was soundly rejected by the Fair’s organizers and sponsors. Dalí was so incensed by the Fair’s requests for alterations to his fever-dream funhouse that he wrote a pamphlet called “Declaration of the Independence of the Imagination and the Rights of Man to His Own Madness.” The pamphlet condemned the Fair’s censorship of his work and with the help of a pilot and an airplane, he had copies of it dropped from the sky all over New York City.