Private Collection

Dali17: A Permanent Exhibition of the Surrealist Genius in California

Jennifer Levy

The Monterey Museum houses a private collection of more than 580 works by the iconoclastic Salvador Dalí.

Spanish artist Salvador Dalí spent a large part of the 1940s in California, and was well-known in the Monterey, art scene. It is there that Dali 17, the most extensive permanent collection of the artist’s work in the US West Coast resides and is open to the public.


The recently opened permanent exhibition at the Museum of Monterey, Dali17, ties the artist’s influence and history to the original 17 Mile Drive, where the painter lived and worked throughout the 1940s. As an early Carmel Art Association member, he exhibited vintage-sourced photographs and gave his time to help judge competitive art exhibitions for high school students throughout California.

The selection of pieces for Dali17 features over 580 works, including original etchings, mixed media, lithographs, rare sculptures, and tapestries. The collection was previously exhibited in Spain and Belgium, and the artworks come from the private collection of Ukranian entrepreneur and art collector Dimitry Piterman.

Dali 17 at the Museum of Monterey- Courtesy: © Scott Campbell Photos.

“I became fascinated with Salvador Dali when I was still a student at UC Berkeley. It became somewhat of an obsession as I tried to apply Dali’s visions and philosophies to my own life. His out of the box thinking and the radical way Dali viewed life through surrealist glasses intrigued me to become a collector,” said Piterman, who also founded the museum.

Piterman will be actively involved in the day-to-day management of the exhibition space at the museum. The exhibit focuses on reclaiming Dali’s life story by showcasing his influence locally and capturing the rich history that ties him to the greater Monterey region.

Dimitri Piterman. Courtesy: © Scott Campbell Photos.

Housed in the Museum of Monterey, the permanent exhibit is being touted as the Dali17 museum because of its extensive look into the artist’s works. Included in the collection—and on permanent display as well—are enlarged photographs of Dali during a 1941 party at Hotel Del Monte, where Dalí personally enthralled and enchanted guests one evening— 75 years ago—in Monterey, CA.

The photos were taken by then Pebble Beach Co. photographer Julian Graham. The images are accompanied by text from Barbara Briggs-Anderson, whose e-book A Surrealistic Night in an Enchanted Forest describes the party and its preparations. Dali17 celebrates the 75th anniversary of A Surrealistic Night in an Enchanted Forest, a costumed fundraiser for refugee artists hosted by Salvador Dali and his wife Gala at Hotel Del Monte in Monterey, on Sept. 2, 1941. The legendary dinner was attended by notable guests such as Bob Hope and Gloria Vanderbilt and included animals from the San Francisco zoo, bizarre decorations, and costumes inspired by dreams and children of the forest. The star-studded evening was captured in a 1941 newsreel.

The 75th anniversary is slated for Friday, October 28th and will feature short films and live entertainment. A limited number of tickets will be sold, and Halloween and surrealistic costumes are strongly encouraged.

The museum collection is almost entirely composed of works by Dali, and Dali17 has a room dedicated to the 1941 party, but the institution still has a section devoted to local history. The museum will also host visiting Dalí exhibitions, monthly events, and a speaker series.  ■

© | 2019