When Dalí wanted to turn the United States into a canvas, he painted a bottle of Coca-Cola in the center of a composition entitled Poetry of America. The work dates back to 1943, when he had been residing in the US for three years after fleeing Europe during the Second World War.

From the first time he had traveled to the US in 1934, he realized that a new world was being developed there, dominated by the mass media working to satisfy the masses, eager for more intense emotions. He probably first became aware of it in 1936, when he appeared on the cover of Time magazine.

He, who always defended that the general public understood art better than the “cultural intermediaries”, embraced that American way of doing things and participated in all sorts of creative projects, even in the decoration of department store windows such as Bonwitt Teller’s on 5th Avenue. Full of surrealistic and provocative elements, the owners wanted him to rework his proposal for the store. Dissatisfied with the change, Dalí attempted to restore the original idea, but an incident occurred where a bathtub broke one of the display window’s glass panes. Due to that episode, he got himself arrested. He couldn’t have had a better publicity campaign. From that moment on, he was flung into the limelight, where not a single day passed without the Catalan artist being mentioned in the US media.

Meanwhile, Dalí continued to broaden his horizons. Fascinated by cinema, he went to Hollywood. There he met his admired Marx Brothers, whom he defined as “three American surrealists. ”. Director Alfred Hitchcock asked him for help in shooting the dream scene that Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman share in Spellbound. He then collaborated with Walt Disney and, although the project did not completely come to fruition at that time, many years later the fascinating animated short film Destino was produced in 2002.

This genius of surrealism also learned to take advantage of the advent of television to build his persona. When the appliances took American households by storm, brands used the television to dazzle the population with advertisements, and these brands found an ally in Dalí. He would then do the same when he returned to Empordà. From then on, he worked on advertising for all kinds of commercial products, from alcoholic beverages to chocolate.

Cover of Time magazine, December 14, 1936
Photographer: Man Ray. Time ltd, ©FGSD

“What I want is for people to constantly talk about Dalí, even if he is well spoken of”

— Dalí, interviewed by Narciso Ibáñez Serrador on TVE, January 1, 1970