This work is sold with a photo-certificate from Robert Descharnes.
Le voyage fantastique is a hallucinatory portrait made at the height of Dalí’s so-called ‘Pop’ period in New York in the winter of 1964-1965. The painting was made as part of the promotion of the 1966 film ‘Fantastic Voyage’ starring Stephen Boyd, Donald Pleasence and Raquel Welch. Early in 1965 Dalí had been asked by Twentieth Century Fox to be in charge of the artistic part of this groundbreaking science fiction film. Dalí’s first response to this challenge was to paint this work which incorporates many of the elements of the film using several of his most recent painterly techniques.
Foremost among these is the computer-based printing technique of building an image with dots that Dalí had recently transformed into a new optical style in such works as Portrait of my Dead Brother of 1963. Like several contemporary Pop artists such as Roy Lichtenstein or Sigmar Polke for example, Dalí had begun to experiment with raster dots as a way of rendering images. Painting them illusionistically as spheres, Dalí transformed these raster dots into molecule-like particles that echoed those of his ‘Nuclear mystical’ paintings of the 1950s. In Le voyage fantastique these dots are rendered as a flat field in an op-art way that combines to form a partially recognisable image of Raquel Welch. This image is shown dissolving into particles in a way that echoes the plot of the film in which a crew of scientists were reduced to molecular scale and injected into the body of a man in order to save his life.
Dalí’s painting of the subject seems to describe this transformation. Split into two halves with one, the facial image, shown dissolving into the figure of the patient at the left, the painting also shows the emergence of the space-suit-clad figures forming from the molecules and their injection into the man’s skull. This, Dalí has also mysteriously adorned with a sequence of numbers. In addition, the patient also models another particularly Dalínean feature, an excessively elaborate and bushy moustache.
According to photographer David McCabe who visited Dalí with Andy Warhol at the time that he was painting the work, Le voyage fantastique was one of several paintings that Dalí made directly in his hotel suite at the St Regis having turned one of the rooms into a studio-cum-greeting room or what he called his ‘humble atelier for the fabrication of dollars’. There Dalí had hung Le voyage fantastique next to his largest and most important painting of this period, his vast Apotheosis of the Dollar now in the Dalí Theatre-Museum, Figueres. McCabe documented the, by all accounts, awkward meeting between Dalí and Warhol - the two leading eccentrics of the 1960s New York art scene at this time - in a series of photographs and recalled the event in his book, A Year in the Life of Andy Warhol. ‘I went with Andy to see Dalí at the St. Regis Hotel, ‘ McCabe wrote, ‘Dalí used to paint his suite at the St. Regis. He was working on two enormous paintings at the time. He greeted us at the door, ordered up all sorts of lavish room service - bottles of wine and so on - and that was that. After ‘Hello, welcome to my humble atelier for the fabrication of dollars’ or whatever folderol Dalí was putting out that day, Dalí and Andy barely said another word to each other. It was not possible. The music was playing so loudly. He had grand opera blasting at ear-splitting level. To add to the chaos, Dalí had picked up a stray cat on the street. It was wild, totally feral, and it was bouncing off the walls, bouncing off his paintings, careening off everything in the room. Dalí would grab it and try to hold it, but he’d have to let it go because it was trying to claw him. Dalí was in shock, I think, because he loved cats. It was a hair-raising situation. Andy was just stunned. It was the first time I’d seen Andy drink. He was slugging back white wine. Dalí turned the whole event into theatre, and Andy wasn’t theatrical in that way. At one point Dalí grabbed this elaborate Inca headdress that he had been using as a prop - you can see its outline in that painting behind him - and put the headdress on Andy. He positioned himself very melodramatically behind Andy still wearing the silly-looking headdress, glared into the camera, and gestured wildly with his walking stick. A total Dalí performance. Theatre of the Absurd. Gala drifted in and out. At one point, I remember Dalí gesturing to her menacingly with his walking stick, as if to say that she shouldn’t be in the photograph. Dalí took over the situation outrageously. He just staged the whole thing. Andy was petrified. He sat there frozen, like a statue, utterly speechless. He couldn’t have spoken anyway, because the volume of the music was so loud. An ingenious way Dalí had perhaps devised to avoid having to talk to anyone. But of course with Andy he needn’t have worried. Andy wouldn’t have said anything anyway.’ (David McCabe, A Year in the Life of Andy Warhol, New York, 2003, pp. 38-9).
Salvador Dalí (1904-1989)
Gouache, watercolour, brush and India ink, coloured pencils and pencil on board
Signed twice and dated 'Dalí 1965' (lower left)
39 7/8 x 60 1/8 in. (101.2 x 152.7 cm.)
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, by whom acquired directly from the artist.
Anonymous sale, Doyle, New York, 22 September 1982, lot 63.
Private collection, Europe; sale, Christie's, London, 6 February 2007, lot 140.
Private collection, by whom acquired at the above sale; sale, Sotheby's, London, 2 November 2011, lot 5.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
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