Art Exhibit honoring Salvador Dali lets you “Ask Dali” anything on his 120th Birthday

As we approach Salvador Dalí’s 120th birthday on May 11th, the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, is offering visitors a unique opportunity: to “Ask Dalí” and converse with a lifelike, artificial intelligence recreation of the Spanish painter himself, simply by picking up a lobster phone. This innovative experience is inspired by one of Dalí’s most iconic creations, the Lobster Telephone, and is made possible through the fusion of the artist’s eccentric genius with cutting-edge machine-learning technology.

Designer: Goodby Silverstein & Partners

Salvador Dalí, known for his surrealist paintings such as “The Persistence of Memory,” “Swans Reflecting Elephants,” and, of course, the Lobster Telephone, has left an unforgettable mark on the world of art. His works continue to captivate audiences worldwide, challenging our perceptions of reality and expanding the boundaries of the imagination. The Lobster Telephone, created by Dalí in 1936 for the English poet Edward James, now serves as an inspiration to the central piece in the Dali Museum’s latest interactive exhibit, as the ‘telephone’ fits best for the analogy, allowing visitors to engage with the artist himself in a surreal and thought-provoking manner.

Surrealism, the movement Dalí helped to spearhead, aims to revolutionize human experience by balancing a rational vision of life with one that asserts the power of the unconscious and dreams. Surrealist artists find magic and strange beauty in the unexpected and the uncanny, the disregarded and the unconventional. Dalí’s paintings offer deep and multifaceted meanings, providing ample scope for imagination and understanding of the artist’s perspective.

In an era marked by remarkable technological advancements, it’s fitting to bring a renowned artist back to life through AI, especially as we celebrate his birthday. Debuting after a successful preview at the renowned SXSW conference, Ask Dalí marries the artist’s eccentric genius with some of the latest in machine-learning technology. Crafted by advertising agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners (GS&P), the experience utilizes OpenAI’s GPT-4 and ElevenLabs’ Eleven Multilingual V2 models. These tools are trained on a rich dataset of Dalí’s own writings and archival audio, producing responses that echo his distinctive voice, flamboyant personality, and whimsical humor.

To start a conversation, visitors pick up the telephone and ask any question they would like, whether seeking insights into the artist’s surreal imagery or his thoughts on contemporary matters. During a demonstration, Hank Hine, director of the Dalí Museum, tested the system by asking what one should be sure to see when visiting the museum. The AI, channeling Dalí’s lyrical style, recommended, “In the labyrinth of the imagination that unfurls within the Dalí Museum of St. Petersburg, one must seek the melting clocks in The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory, where time drips like a dream refusing to be contained.”

Building upon the successes of previous AI-assisted exhibits, such as Dalí Lives in 2019, which brought the artist’s persona to life on screens throughout the museum, and the Dream Tapestry in 2023, where AI assisted visitors in creating digital paintings from descriptions of their dreams, Ask Dalí is the latest in a series of innovative intersections of art and technology inspired by Dalí’s own fascination with new mediums. Jeff Goodby, the co-founder of GS&P, reflects on the project’s alignment with Dalí’s legacy: “Dalí was fascinated by the latest tools and technologies of his era and continually explored various artistic media,” he notes. “Ask Dalí provides a delightful new way to interact with machine-learning technology. Dalí’s poetic writings, in an imaginative style all his own, are the basis of the training, providing dynamic and unpredictable answers to visitors’ questions.”

The 120th birthday of Salvador Dalí promotes the intersection of art and technology allowing visitors to engage with one of the greatest artists of the 20th century in a manner that is both enlightening and surreal. Through the Lobster Telephone, visitors to the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg can experience firsthand the wit, wisdom, and eccentricity of Salvador Dalí, ensuring that his legacy lives on for generations to come.