One by one, on a small stage in a room overlooking an elaborate garden and the the bay beyond it, 80 people are taking turns reading excerpts from “The Secret Life of Salvador Dali,” the artist’s autobiography, in 15-minute increments.
The event started at 11a.m. Friday and is scheduled to run for 24 hours straight to mark what would have been the renowned Spanish surrealist’s 109th birthday.
Museum staff members had long wanted to stage a reading of the book and saw his May 11th birthday as a way to do it.
“[It’s] supposedly a confessional,” said Peter Tush, the museum’s curator of education. “He took advantage of factual stories of his life and modified them and distorted them and created these hyperbolic stories that are deliberately falsified.”
The event’s roster of readers speaks to the Dali Museum’s role as both a key tourism driver and a draw for creative people in the Tampa Bay region. It includes City Council members Leslie Curran and Karl Nurse, members of local media and faculty from Eckerd College and the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.
“He’s such an eclectic individual that he acts as kind of a hub for a lot of different types of ideas,” Tush said.
Marita Contreras, who teaches film at Eckerd College, said the multilayered, deeply psychological nature of Dali’s work spills over into other forms and is why her students benefit from being just a short drive from the museum.
“It’s the most important museum in town,” she said. “That my students have access to it is fabulous. I think it’s a source of inspiration and motivation to them.”