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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Heavy Dose of Dali Draws Huge Crowds

A question for Salvador Dali: Is this scene surreal?

Outside the hulking Central House of Artists, a line of several hundred people curls around the building. Entrepreneurs have set up refreshment stands throughout the area, and with the sky clear and bright, sunbathers sprawl on the museum's lawns. The people standing in line are having a good time, licking ice cream cones and chatting about the last time Dali's art was exhibited in Moscow.

It's not surreal, just real summer with a dose of art added for good measure. An immense Dali retrospective opened on Thursday at the Central House of Artists that clearly has become the cultural event of the season: On its first day, officials said, more than 2,000 people showed up. Scalpers were hawking tickets -- no need to stand in line -- for up to 10,000 rubles apiece. Tickets normally cost 3,000 rubles.

"I hope to get in after an hour," said Sergei Trofimov, a 25-year-old student who was waiting in line on Friday. "This is crazy -- there are more people here than at MMM."

The retrospective, called "Dali Without Borders," comprises some 900 paintings, drawings, sculptures and music by the Spanish surrealist. The music is a 2 1/2-hour opera written by Dali entitled "To Be God" that is played continuously on a stereo in the display's halls. Six years ago there was an exhibit of the artist's lithographs at the Pushkin museum, but it was nothing compared to this.

Shoe-horned into three halls on the third floor of the Central House of Artists, the show is good entertainment, if a bit cramped. There are recognizable canvases of melting clocks and bizarre desert scenes, in addition to rows and rows of pen-and-ink drawings. A pleasant surprise are the color engravings Dali did in the late 1960s of plants in various forms of surrealistic contortion: a flower has record albums instead of petals; a blueberry branch takes the form of a running man.

One of the most impressive things about the exhibit is that none of the work is fake. Dali was one of the most prolific artists of the 20th century, but he was also one of the most copied, and as a result forgeries abound. This display, though, contains nothing but the real thing.

"Most of the works belong to close friends of Dali," said Ewald Ailert, head of VEOS, the German firm that had a hand in bringing the retrospective to Russia. Moscow's Krymsky Val Art Company is the main sponsor of the show.

Michelle Broutta, a French publisher who dealt with Dali and collected his work, was on hand for the first day of the show. Her assemblage of the surrealist's works, along with those gathered by Dali's last personal secretary, Robert Descharnes, make up the bulk of the exhibit.

Although the fine weather has helped bring out big crowds -- if it were raining, fewer people would be willing to stand in line -- organizers expect a drop-off during the weekend as many Muscovites head to their dachas. Nevertheless, the retrospective is attracting people from all over Russia.

Leonid Andreyev, 44, a carpenter in Tula, traveled 180 kilometers to Moscow specifically to see the Dali show.

"I've always been crazy about Dali," he said while waiting to buy a ticket on Friday afternoon. "Six years ago I went to the first exhibit, so I couldn't miss this one. I used to be an artist, so Dali is special to me."

"Dali Without Borders" runs until Sept. 14 at the Central House of Artists, located at 10 Krymsky Val. It is open from 11 A.M. to 7 P.M. Closed Monday. Tel. 238-1955. Nearest metro: Oktyabrskaya.