Riverviews Artspace will take edible art to a cerebral place Saturday evening when the gallery opens its doors for “Les Diners By Riverviews: The Dalí Dinner Experience.”
The gala dinner inspired by surrealist painter Salvador Dalí — which still has a few tickets available — serves as a one-of-a-kind immersive experience for guests and a fundraiser for the arts hub.
“We, as a contemporary arts place, have the unique privilege of being outrageous,” says Kim Soerensen, executive director of Riverviews. “So, why not utilize that to the fullest for this event?”
The idea for the gala was actually inspired by the artist himself, says Soerensen.
Known for his eccentric style, Dalí and his wife Gala famously hosted outlandish dinner parties that were immortalized in the 1973 cookbook “Les Diners de Gala.”
These soirees were known for featuring extraordinary costumes, exotic animals and dishes as whimsical as the paintings that burst from the artist’s mind.
During a particularly well-known dinner at the Hotel Del Monte in 1941, Dali wore a hat shaped like a unicorn head and bottle fed a lion cub while celebrity guests puzzled over a fish course served in a satin slipper and jumped when presented a main course of live frogs.
“What’s better than Salvador Dalí’s cookbook from 1973 as a dinner experience?” says Soerensen, who happens to own an incredibly rare first edition of the book.
Using it as a jumping-off point, Soerensen brought in Jason Arbusto, culinary director for the Craddock Terry Hotel and its restaurants, to create a feast based on the artist’s elaborate culinary creations.
Diners who attend the gala will not find themselves facing a plate of eel pâté, ox snouts or jellied cod fish like they would have in Dalí’s days.
Instead, the five-course meal includes such dishes as deviled eggs with caviar, crawfish in a puff pastry and passion fruit cream with coconut martini foam.
Arbusto, who worked under legendary French chef Alain Ducasse, also has paired each dish with a Spanish wine in homage to the artist’s homeland.
“I’m bringing a touch of modernity to what he was doing,” he says. “... I’m bringing a lighter, fresher technique, which is basically what French cooking has evolved to since the generation of nouvelle cuisine”
The gala won’t just be an event for gastronomes. Riverviews will be transformed into a surrealist world with an art installation made by local artist Pamela Winegard, and local actors Bill and Terry Bodine will preside over the event as Dalí and Gala.
We “want to get [the diners] to feel like they’re moving from one space, which is reality, into a different space, which is not reality,” says Winegard.
During the evening, guests will have the chance to partake in old parlor games and bid on Dalí-related items in an auction, including a second-edition of “Les Diners de Gala,” which was reprinted by Taschen in 2016, and a postcard signed by the artist.
Other items include a Dalí-illustrated edition of “Don Quixote,” a free screening in Riverviews’ newly renovated theater and gift cards to downtown restaurants.
Proceeds from ticket sales and the auction will go toward the gallery’s annual exhibits.
“Our exhibits are free, but it costs us about $20,000 a year to do those,” says Soerensen. “Our goal from here on ... is to raise the funds to cover the main gallery and its contemporary exhibits.”
Although the gala has not yet happened, there is already talk of making the dinners into a yearly event using different famous artists as inspiration.
“If you think about it, this is the ideal fundraiser,” says Soerensen. “These are contemporary artists and this is a contemporary gallery.”