St Petersburg: The James and The Dalí are the Main Highlights of the Art Scene

The next town south of Tampa has developed a vibrant art scene. Two of the biggest draws are The James and The Dalí Museum.

Officially known as The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art, the venue’s vast main hall evokes the sandstone canyons of Utah with its tall undulating vertical planes. The visitor is quickly dwarfed upon entering and no paintings are seen, but peeling off from the main hall are the various galleries.

The James does an admirable job of telling the full dimension of the peoples, landscapes and history of the American West. A recently closed exhibition entitled From Far East to West: The Chinese American Frontier was a bracing and blunt exploration of the Chinese experience from the Gold Rush and the Transcontinental Railroad to the development of Chinatowns. Several contemporary Chinese artists (Hung Liu, Mian Situ, Jie Wei Zhou and Benjamin Wu) highlighted the all-too-rarely depictions of Chinese interpretations of cowboys and other American icons.

The James has a secondary mission of displaying art related to, and wildlife of the world. The range of artists and animals on display is noteworthy.

The James will soon celebrate its sixth anniversary and presently displays more than 400 premier works of art including sculpture, paintings and jewelry across the museum’s 26,000 square feet of gallery space. We enjoyed our repeat visit to this stylish museum.

The Dalí Museum is somewhat diametrically opposed in mission, as its focus is basically on a single individual – the Spanish surrealist artist. The museum is home to the largest collection of the artist’s work outside of Europe. I admit to have dismissed Dalí as too clever by half, but after a couple visits to his eponymous museum I have a newfound appreciation. When Dalí left for the USA in 1940 he developed a worldwide personality, much fueled by his wife. He famously worked with both Alfred Hitchcock and Walt Disney in Hollywood, bringing his sly mustachioed persona to a broader awareness.

Currently on offer is an exhibition entitled Dalí & The Impressionists: Monet, Renoir, Degas & More.

The assembled works do an admirable job of assaying Dalí’s influence by the big names of Impressionism. With 22 Impressionist paintings assembled near some of Dalí’s work the visitor can draw the connections. The exhibition is presented in connection with the venerable Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

In keeping with the broad foray into interactive experiences, the Dalí also has a pretty good offering with its Dalí Alive 360° experience. If you are sufficiently flexible and unconcerned, grab a pillow and stretch out on the floor to enjoy the display on the globe above you.

These are only two of the many worthy gallery offerings in St Pete, so consider these a catalyst for further explorations.

Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.