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Museum of Monterey scores big on the surrealism front

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Tapping deeply into the Peninsula’s art history and the art collection of a flamboyant Pebble Beach resident, the Museum of Monterey later this year will unveil a permanent Salvador Dali collection.

Officials of the Monterey History and Art Association, which operates the museum at Custom House Plaza near Fishermans Wharf, announced the agreement Tuesday involving more than 500 etchings, lithographs and sculptures produced by the Spanish surrealist.

The works are owned by Dmitry Piterman, a Ukrainian-American businessman best known for his ownership of Spanish soccer teams. His is said to be the second largest private Dali collection in the United States.

Speaking in front of a sample of the works, Piterman and museum officials said they hope to launch the exhibition within a couple of months but first need to spruce up the museum and possibly add space to accommodate the collection.

Association official Marc Del Piero said the collaboration was a natural in that Dali lived in the Monterey area in the 1930s and 1940s, spending much of the time at the old Del Monte Hotel, site of several celebrity-studded events hosted by the artist. He was a founding member of the Carmel Art Association and a judge of the group’s annual competition for area high school students.
Museum officials said many of the works to be featured here have never been seen outside Spain and Belgium. Del Piero and others said their expectation is that the exhibit here will become a significant tourist draw and breathe new life into the local museum.

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Art collector/entrepreneur Dmitry Piterman and Marc Del Piero announce local exhibition of the works of Salvador Dali

Despite considerable fame, even notoriety, in Europe, Piterman and his Dali at 17 Mile Drive partnership are relatively unknown here.

When he was contemplating a move into professional soccer in this country, the New York Times said Piterman had been born in Ukraine but moved the United States to attend Cal. He qualified for the Olympic trials in 1992 and 1996 as a triple jumper but failed to land a spot on the team.

The Times said Piterman saved the struggling Spanish soccer club Racing Santander by becoming president, coach, photographer and equipment manager but Spanish authorities upended the arrangement because he did hold a coaching license. He later sold his stake in the team and bought a controlling interest in another  Spanish team, Alaves.

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Painting a fresh red apple with paintbrushThere it is again. A post-game interview in which a Big League ball player describes his emotional state during a key point in the game as having been “definitely surreal.”

I’ve noticed a lot athletes, particularly members of the San Francisco Giants, because I watch their games more than others, are using “surreal” these days as a go-to adjective to describe what older players may have called “amazing,” “fantastic,” or “unreal.”

Those words are all acceptable synonyms for the non-art-world meaning of surreal, though they give no hint of the other-worldly, hallucinatory sense at the core of things properly called surreal.

While it’s no reason to send a player back to the minors for more practice on interview phrases, I wish ball players would excise surreal from their bat rack of handy cliches. It makes them sound as if they had spent the previous four hours at a Phish concert rather than on a baseball diamond.

Just the other day, grinning Giants rookie Kelby Tomlinson said the experience of hitting a grand slam as his first home run in the Major Leagues was, you got it, surreal.

I’m the first to give the kid a break since he’s probably heard plenty of other ball players this season describing other key hits, outstanding plays, dugout pranks or standing ovations as surreal. But an intervention is needed.

It’s become so widespread a usage that even players who speak through translators are using surreal in their native tongue like so many dazed Phish heads or art history minors. I fear by next season, players will be describing their emotional highs as “definitely post-impressionistic” or “downright Dadaesque.”

To clear the air, I offer a few baseball scenarios that would truly warrant being described as surreal:

— If Hunter Pence, the free-spirited Giants outfielder, walks his pet lobster on a leash — Salvador Dali-style — to the batting cage in advance of taking his pre-game rips.

— If hundreds of black-suited umpires wearing bowler hats descend slowly through the stadium air with rolled up umbrellas, jewel-studded chest protectors and featureless faces.

— If Los Angeles Dodgers players run forever toward first base with heavy bags of money encumbering their legs, but never reach base, while packs of vicious gulls befoul their tidy white uniforms with gallons of guano. (This is a hallucinatory dream enjoyed, perhaps, by many Giants fans.)

— If Giants manager Bruce Bochy speaks ancient Etruscan during his post game press conference and all the media people understand perfectly as he explains how shortstop Brandon Crawford “ground out a good at-bat” despite how his long hair was transformed into a tangle of hissing serpents.

Sea. Creative.Don’t get me wrong. Many unusual things can happen during a baseball game. It’s true one can go to the park or tune in a game on any given day and stand a very good chance of witnessing something never seen before.

Still, nothing truly surreal happens, unless you mistakenly count the August 1951 game when the St. Louis Browns used 3-foot-7-inch Eddie Gaedel as a first-inning pinch hitter. Gaedel, who wore the number 1/8, drew a four-pitch walk.

There was nothing surreal about this episode, which was cooked up by Bill Veeck, the Browns’ shameless publicity hound of an owner. Veeck reportedly threatened to shoot Gaedel if the wee man dared swing at a pitch.

Now had Gaedel blasted the first pitch over the center-field wall, causing all the time pieces in the stadium to slowly melt while the fielders’ mitts overflowed with milk and radishes, there would have been only one way to accurately call the play: definitely surreal.

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