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An enlarged replica of Salvador Dali's sculpture Space Venus sits in the shadow of the British Airways London Eye outside the Dali Universe, a gallery of more than 500 pieces of art from the famous surrealist.

An enlarged replica of Salvador Dali's sculpture Space Venus sits in the shadow of the British Airways London Eye outside the Dali Universe, a gallery of more than 500 pieces of art from the famous surrealist. (Sean Kimmons / S&S)

An enlarged replica of Salvador Dali's sculpture Space Venus sits in the shadow of the British Airways London Eye outside the Dali Universe, a gallery of more than 500 pieces of art from the famous surrealist.

An enlarged replica of Salvador Dali's sculpture Space Venus sits in the shadow of the British Airways London Eye outside the Dali Universe, a gallery of more than 500 pieces of art from the famous surrealist. (Sean Kimmons / S&S)

A tourist takes a photo of an enlarged replica of Salvador Dali's sculpture Nobility of Time outside the Dali Universe, a gallery of more than 500 pieces of art from the famous surrealist.

A tourist takes a photo of an enlarged replica of Salvador Dali's sculpture Nobility of Time outside the Dali Universe, a gallery of more than 500 pieces of art from the famous surrealist. (Sean Kimmons / S&S)

Follow the vertical Dali signs to the Dali Universe.

Follow the vertical Dali signs to the Dali Universe. (Sean Kimmons / S&S)

UK weekly edition, Wednesday, May 23, 2007

LONDON — The Dali Universe isn’t your ordinary art gallery filled with portraits and statues of dignitaries and religious icons. Rather, it is a place that is out there — way out there.The gallery, holding more than 500 pieces of art by the late Spanish surrealist artist Salvador Dali, offers a weird and unique experience to those who enter its doors.

Located in the shadow of the British Airways London Eye along the River Thames, the gallery presents itself in a distinctive setting with black walls, low lighting as well as black lights and is based on three themes: Sensuality and Femininity, Religion and Mythology and Dreams and Fantasy.

Perhaps the gallery’s bread and butter is that it holds the largest collection of bronze sculptures by Dali dating from 1935 to 1984. Other artwork includes rare graphics, jewelry, furniture and watercolor paintings.

Entering the gallery, you will pass through a dark hallway with random photos and profound quotes from this master of surrealism posted on the walls.

One quote reads, “There is more madness to my method than method to my madness.”

Another says, “What is important is to spread confusion not to eliminate it.”

The latter quote is exactly what visitors to the gallery will probably be: confused.

Pieces of art by Dali are somewhat off-the-wall and it can be hard to decipher what he’s trying to convey through them. Thankfully, there are written explanations attached to many of his pieces to help translate his meanings.

The dark hallway then opens to a long, narrow room where bizarre pieces of furniture sit, sculptures bask under showroom lights and other examples of surrealistic art line the walls.

One sculpture that is duplicated in others within the room is “The Profile of Time,” a large bronze piece that displays his famed melting-watch image draped against a barren tree.

Another piece that stands out is the “Space Elephant,” which consists of a bronze elephant looking as if it’s walking on stilts and carrying an obelisk, a symbol of power and domination.

A huge painting, made for Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “Spellbound,” dominates the room’s left wall. In 1945, Dali designed a surrealistic dream segment in the movie that probes themes of psychoanalysis.

One piece also on display in the room that provokes some head scratching is the “Lobster Telephone.” Yep, you heard it right — a lobster carcass planted on top of a telephone.

According to a nearby explanation, this unusual piece was conjured up in 1936 by Dali, who wrote in his book “The Secret Life” that he demanded to know why, when he asked for a lobster in a restaurant, it didn’t come with a telephone. Hmm … he has a good point.

In an adjacent room, past a small exhibit of colorful glassware, Dali’s religious and mythological paintings, sculptures and color etchings can be viewed.

A famous bronze sculpture in this room is “Vision of the Angel.” In this sculpture, Dali reinvented a classic religious image through surrealistic interpretation in which he depicts God as a thumb from where all life emerges, an explanation read.

It takes about an hour to journey through the gallery, but it can take longer if you try to decode Dali’s undertones in each of his artwork. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed inside the gallery so you can’t capture a shot of your favorite pieces.

However, if you’re really into Dali’s work, you can take one of his art pieces home. Art lovers can purchase such items as limited-edition prints and bronze sculptures from 550 pounds all the way up to 16,000 pounds. Cheaper Dali souvenirs can be bought at the gallery’s gift shop.

Getting there

Location: Inside the County Hall Gallery, next to the British Airways London Eye along the River Thames in central London. Closest Underground tube stations are Waterloo and Westminster.

Hours: Open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Prices: Adult tickets are 11 pounds, children 8 to 16 years old are 6.50 pounds, children 4 to 7 years old are 5 pounds and 3 and younger are free.

Web site:www.daliuniverse.com.

Phone: 0870 744 7485.

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