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Keepin' it surreal

September 24, 2004

Paul Saitowitz

Nestled atop a Circle K in the upper corner of a run-down strip mall,

replete with a massage parlor and coin shop, is a surreal spot to

find one of the county's largest collections of Salvador Dali prints.

But then again, the two go hand in hand.

The master of surrealism -- with his melted clocks, melted faces

and mustache coated in butch wax angled to shoot straight up at the

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ends -- probably wouldn't want it any other way.

Tonight in Costa Mesa, in the aforementioned strip mall at 7 p.m.,

Dante's Inferno Salvador Dali Gallery will debut its new Dali

collection to commemorate what would have been the Spanish artist's

100th year.

"The thing that has always attracted me to Dali is that no one

else is like him," gallery co-owner and art collector Eric Emken

said. "His techniques and his images are so often copied ... but he

originated so much. People don't realize that he was also a master

draftsman and designed a lot of buildings."

Emken, who co-owns the gallery with Trace Kirkpatrick and Brandon

Power, first became infatuated with Dali as a teenager collecting

posters of his work. He has since dedicated his career to amassing

Dali's works and travels twice a year to Europe to attend auctions

solely focused on the Spaniards' paintings and drawings.

He deals with art dealers from around the globe and has sold

several works from his personal collection to doctors, professors and

other Dali fanatics.

"There are works that I buy, complete sets, that I'll break and

sell if someone offers the right price," he said. "But there are

certain things that mean too much to me that I will never part with."

The gallery is focused on a sect of Dali's illustration work that

was published in what is known as "Dali's Catalogue Raisonne." The

suites on display from that collection are "Alice in Wonderland,"

"The Divine Comedy," "Les Chants De Maldoror" and "Le Tricorne."

The works are all limited-edition prints, and most were reproduced

using a Japanese woodblock technique that Dali supervised.

The most ambitious group in the Costa Mesa collection is "The

Divine Comedy," which features 100 images presented in three chapters

-- Hell, Purgatory and Heaven. The collection took more than 14 years

to complete and was supervised by Dali himself.

"These works have special watermarks in them to display their

authenticity, and they really are striking," Emken said.

The only group displayed that are lithographs is "Les Chants de

Maldoror."

The suite consists of 42 images from one of Dali's first major

publications of engravings in 1934. The lithographs on display were

remade from the original plates for the Prague Museum Gallery D

exhibition the artists had in 1966. Less than 600 sets were made.

"We have a great range of his work here, and the best part is that

a lot of it is affordable, which gives people the opportunity to hang

an original Dali print in their homes," Emken said.

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