Safety Last! 1923. USA. Directed by Sam Taylor, Fred Newmeyer

Salvador Dalí’s 1927 essay “Film-arte, film-antiartístico” illustrates the artist’s developing critical philosophy of the cinema. According to Dalí, the “artistic” film embodies only the imagination of the creator and is therefore grandiose; the “anti-artistic” film reveals the immediacy of action and demands an emotional response while embracing the limitless technical properties of the camera. Dalí wrote, “When monotony is reached, and when it is repeated, when you know what is going to happen, then you begin to feel the joy of unforeseen technical and expressive diversity.”

Dalí declared the works of Buster Keaton to be prime examples of “anti-artistic” filmmaking, calling them “pure poetry”; his admiration was such that he produced a collage titled The Marriage of Buster Keaton (1925), featuring an image of the comedian in a seated pose, staring straight ahead with his trademark boater hat resting in his lap. At the Cineclub Español in Madrid, Dalí saw Keaton’s films along with those of Charles Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, and Harry Langdon, and was captivated by their inventive and disruptive responses to ordinary situations. This exhibition presents a concise selection of silent comedies that inspired Dalí’s Surrealist aesthetic and informed his developing commitment to the cinema as a means of radical aesthetic representation.

All films are silent with piano or organ accompaniment by Ben Model, except where noted.

This exhibition is presented in conjunction with Dalí: Painting and Film.

The film exhibitions were organized by Anne Morra, Assistant Curator, Department of Film. Dalí: Painting and Film is coordinated for MoMA by Jodi Hauptman, Curator, Department of Drawings.

Licensing of MoMA images and videos is handled by Art Resource (North America) and Scala Archives (all other geographic locations). All requests should be addressed directly to those agencies, which supply high-resolution digital image files provided to them directly by the Museum.

Requests for permission to reprint text from MoMA publications should be addressed to text_permissions@moma.org.

This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to digital@moma.org.