Unlike many artists of his time, Salvador Dalí’s face is nearly as famous as his work. In photos and portraits the surrealist painter always struck the same pose: expressionless with wide-open eyes, punctuated by his absurdly long and pointy moustache. His manic eyes captivate, drawing you in with his hypnotic gaze.
That notorious and theatrical look is the basis of a new app to support the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg Florida and its new exhibit of works from Andy Warhol, “Warhol: Art. Fame. Mortality.” The Dalí Museum Staring Contest is exactly what it sounds like: an app in which you stare down the master himself. How it works is equally as straightforward. Lock eyes with Dalí’s steely glare and try to out-stare him. The catch? Dali always wins.
It’s simple and a little bit silly, with an old-timey carnival vibe to it, but it neatly speaks to the personae of both Dalí and Warhol.
“Dalí and Warhol’s obsession with celebrity is the motivation for this Staring App,” says museum executive director Hank Hine. “It puts us face to face with stars of the art world and they look right back at us. But they stay engaged with us only as long as we keep our focus on them. And Dali had an immense ego. The fact that he always wins the staring contest is a gleeful reminder of this.”
Jeff Goodby, co-chairman and partner of Goodby Silverstein & Partners, the agency behind the app, says the idea was to communicate how Dalí and Warhol, “two of the most disturbing and disruptive artists of the 20th century,” changed culture forever. “The staring app was perfect because it alluded to the way we just couldn’t take our eyes off these guys, in a media sense. They filled our lives, in an artistic and popular-cultural sense.”
Hine says launching the app at the time of the Warhol exhibit is meant to drive awareness and create buzz around the show. “Warhol was radical in the way he used media to determine his subject matter–glossy tabloids, newspaper photos with their grain and haphazard quality, screen prints. The iPhone and our relation to it is our subject here. The iPhone holds Dalí and Warhol and others just inches away from us, connecting us to them eye to eye, and then measures how present and intent we are in seconds or minutes of attention.”
“Everything we do here at The Dalí is intended to reflect or in some cases magnify the works and personality of Dalí himself,” adds Hine. “As a barometer, we speculate whether Dalí would like what we’re doing, and the Staring Contest app is one I’m confident he would enjoy.”