Surrealism as Marketing Tool

Posted inThe Daily Heller
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Salvador Dali was called by the anagram Avida Dollars by his detractors. At least those who thought he sold himself and his art out to the highest bidder. I experienced his penchant for greenbacks when, as art director for Screw, I invited Dali to design an entire issue – whatever he wanted to do (even blank pages with just his signature) was okay. Dali was apparently quite interested (like Joan Miro, he was an avid reader). He had just designed Paris Vogue and enjoyed the experience. When it came to the fee, our meager sum (I believe it was $1500 and all the copies he wanted) did not suffice – we heard from his representative that it was not even close.

Perhaps Dalí’s greatest creation was himself, an eccentric, self-aggrandizing showman assured of his own genius and always ready with a provocative quote (also, let’s not forget the mustache). Even early in his career, many fellow artists dismissed his flamboyant clowning, saying it denigrated his art. It was one reason he was expelled from the Surrealists after a mock trial in 1934. He was not above capitalizing on his image by shilling for various products, a practice that helped earn him the anagrammatic nickname ‘Avida Dollars,’ as coined by fellow artist André Breton. Products he endorsed included Lavin chocolate bars, Corona beer, Veterano brandy, the Saint Regis Hotel, and Alka-Seltzer antacids. – From

Dali certainly commercialized surrealism. Which put him at odds with many of his less materialistic colleagues. For the right price Dali did a fare share of advertisements, like this one for Schiaparelli perfume (above) published in this 1943 View magazine (below top – cover by Pavel Tchelitchew), the voice of surrealism in the United States that was edited by Charles Henri Ford. In between the gallery advertisements for surrealist exhibitions and surreal manifestos where a lot of cosmetic full page ads, like the ones here.

When the price is right, everyone has one.