After crumpling up that poster of The Persistence of Memory for post-college interior redecoration, the specter of an anti-Salvador Dali backlash presents itself. It's all too easy to decide that the wax-mustachioed Spanish showman was a commercial, cliched hype-machine and somehow your adolescent self was tricked into buying the Kool-Aid.
The error of such a position, in my view, is revealed time and time again. It's refuted as much as anything by the permanent exhibition showing now over two floors of a blue-green modern-glass gallery in Potsdamer Platz, the former dividing line between East and West Berlin. Potsdamer Platz, which had been leveled by Allied bombing and was rebuilt only recently with a dizzying matrix of luxury hotels, multiplexes and museums, is somehow a fitting site for Dali. It's all disorienting modernist glitz tempered (or underwritten) by recollections of abject destruction, twinkling away into transience. As in Dali's famous In Voluptate Mors, material lust and aestheticism form death's afterimage.
Other than the aforementioned, which is displayed right by the exit, the show mostly stays away from the most obvious Dali icons. Instead it displays a rich collection of illustrations, lithographs, anamorphic drawings, and mixed media works. The wiry, comic-book-like Don Quixote sketches are especially worthy, along with the Pantagruel series, in which Dali mimics Renaissance-style illustration in order to animate Rabelais's classic novel. The Adventures of Casanova are portrayed with bulbous, buffoonish eroticism. Finally, on the second floor, Dali's complex geometric symbology, filled with golden ratios, hieratic marks, and 4-dimensional shapes, manifests in his Recipes for Immortality. Metaphysical, heady, and not a melting clock in sight.