In January 1952 the renowned artist Salvador Dali appeared on the US TV game show, ‘What’s My Line?’ The panel members were blindfolded and had to question the guest to determine his identity. Almost every question they asked he answered in the affirmative. ‘Are you a performer?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Are you a writer?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Are you an artist?’ ‘Yes.’ And so on until one of panellists said in frustration, ‘There is nothing this man does not do!’
Dali, born in 1904 in Spain, was most famous as an artist and as the outstanding exponent of the Surrealist movement. His most celebrated painting is entitled, The Persistence of Memory; it featured images of soft, melting pocket watches. But he was also an architect; he designed the museum in his home town of Figueres. He was a sculptor and furniture maker – his most famous pieces were the Lobster Telephone and the Mae West lips sofa. He was a jeweller making many intricate pieces of jewellery – some with moving parts. He was very active in theatre and film, constructing sets. He collaborated with Alfred Hitchcock to create the dream sequence in Spellbound. He wrote novels and his non-fiction works included the revealing titles, The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí (1942) and Diary of a Genius (1952–63). He worked with photography, textiles and fashion. In short he was a master of all trades.
Dali had great self-belief to the extent that he was an egotist desperate for attention. He grew a flamboyant moustache which became his trademark. He was a shameless publicity seeker and was perhaps the first great artist to mount serious PR campaigns on his own behalf. He was deliberately provocative and shocking and this increased his media coverage. His various antics were seen as gimmicks by his critics but as performance art by his fans.
If you are a genius then flaunt your genius. Dali wanted to express himself in every art form he could find. Not all of Dali’s experiments succeeded but enough did for his reputation to grow to towering proportions. He applied his genius and creativity without fear wherever he could.
Dali died in 1989. He has since become revered as a major inspiration by many modern artists, such as Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons. His image is a worldwide cultural icon for everything fantastic and surreal.
Based on a chapter in Think like an Innovator by Paul Sloane published by Pearson.