“The bells in every church will ring! The farmers working in fields with backs bent will stand upright like an olive tree in the Mediterranean north wind! Cheeks will rest on calloused hands in reverent meditation. See, I have been born!”
Who would talk about his own birth in such a way? You may think it was a man lost in his own narcissism and bragging.
But what if I told you the person who wrote these words was, in fact, Salvador Dali, the painter with a slender, curled moustache and ludicrous expressions? You might then nod, “Yes, I see how a genius like Dali could have said that.”
Dali expressed his narcissism endlessly in front of the public and paid no attention to what anyone else said. He praised himself while raising the value of his works and used his image to earn huge amounts of money. And he enjoyed the abundance he gained from this to the fullest.
“I’m a genius!” So begins Dali’s autobiography. His conceit was such that he completed his autobiography, normally written only after retirement, at the age of 37. When publishing the book ten years later, he wrote in the preface, “This book… is the first diary written by a genius.” Dali scored famous painters in this diary, rating only himself generously and giving renowned painters like Picasso, Monet, and Mondrian scores approaching 0. “Compared to Velázquez, I am nothing,” He said in 1960, “but compared to contemporary painters, I am the most big genius of modern time.”
Dali once invited his friends to an expensive restaurant, but after finishing his meal, he merely drew a picture on the back of a piece of paper rather than paying. He believed his drawing was worth more than the cost of that pricey meal and explained his reasoning in an interview: ”We are caviar, and caviar is the extravagance and the very intelligence of taste.”
Interestingly, the more Dali expressed his narcissism, the greater his popularity grew. He made self-aggrandizing remarks while not concealing his commercialization of himself and earned a great deal of money. Dali made jewelry, clothing, and furniture, and even designed the show window in his own shop. He drew ballet and theatre sets and created a dream sequence for the Alfred Hitchcock thriller Spellbound. He valued the commissions he earned from this work and was forthcoming about himself, describing a “pure, vertical, mystical, gothic love of cash”.
As Dali was very well known, it was he who designed the logo for the lollipop brand Chupa Chups. In 1969, Dali was listening to a friend’s woes in a café. This friend had put out a line of candy, but it wasn’t selling well. Dali immediately opened a newspaper and began to doodle with a pencil. The resulting sketch became the Chupa Chups logo that day. Sales of the candy rose exponentially once the company began to use Dali’s packaging design.
Artists of the time mocked and criticized Dali, converting his name into an anagram: Avida Dollars (i.e. avid for cash). But Dali set his own value very high and used this to ask what was so wrong about earning money. Isn’t it better to live like Dali and enjoy abundance to your heart’s content rather than becoming revered after the end of a life of artistic poverty?