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Reviving Salvador Dalí’s Rainy Day Taxi at the Dali Museum in St Pete

Salvador Dalí, the grandmaster of surrealism, was renowned for his eccentric and thought-provoking art. One of his most playful and provocative creations was the "Rainy Taxi," first introduced at the 1938 International Surrealist Exhibition in Paris. This unique installation featured a real car with mannequins inside, and to the surprise of spectators, it was raining inside the vehicle. This surreal spectacle was a hit, leading Dalí to recreate it in New York in 1939 and in his hometown of Figueres, Spain, where he used his own Cadillac.


Now, the Dalí Museum in St. Pete, Florida, in collaboration with the Tampa Bay Automobile Museum, has revived this surreal masterpiece with a modern twist. Here’s the story of the Rainy Day Taxi and its new incarnation as the "Rainy Rolls."


The Original Rainy Taxi

In the late 1930s, Dalí's Rainy Taxi turned heads and challenged expectations. The original installation in Paris featured a taxi from the twenties, modified to rain inside, drenching mannequins seated in the car. The effect was both shocking and humorous, encapsulating the essence of surrealism by juxtaposing the ordinary with the absurd.


Dalí continued to experiment with this concept, creating similar installations in New York and Figueres. In Spain, he used one of his prized Cadillacs, which unfortunately suffered extensive water damage. Despite the damage, these installations left a lasting impression on the art world, demonstrating Dalí's genius and his ability to blend art with unexpected elements.


The New Rainy Rolls

The revival of this iconic piece of surrealism began with a chance meeting. Yvonne Marrullier, a consultant for the Dalí Museum, introduced the project to Alain Cerf, president of Pinellas-based Polypack Inc. and founder of the Tampa Bay Automobile Museum. Cerf, a trained engineer and passionate automobile collector, was immediately intrigued by the idea.


Planning began after securing the blessing of the Dalí Foundation in Spain. The goal was to create a tribute to the Rainy Taxi that would be as provocative as the original but with modern technology. Cerf proposed creating the illusion of rain rather than an actual downpour inside the car, ensuring the car would remain functional and undamaged.


Cerf initially found the project daunting, but then he had the idea of creating rain panels. Plexiglass prototypes were built. The panels were a closed system that could be mounted in the windows and offer the illusion of rain while leaving the interior dry. The results exceeded expectations, and a search for the right automobile began.


After much consideration, a vintage Rolls-Royce was chosen—a 1933 Sedanca, purchased and shipped from Britain. Cerf, whose collection focuses on avant-garde technology and engineering, was initially skeptical about the Rolls-Royce, known for luxury rather than innovation. However, the car's engineering quality convinced him to preserve its integrity.


New rain panels were created and installed over the car's windows and the divider between passenger and chauffeur. A closed-circuit hydraulic system was discreetly positioned in the trunk, with water lines hidden from view. When the system was activated, it created a convincing illusion of rain, both inside and outside the car.


Cerf proudly noted, "We could remove the rain system at any time, and the car will be completely original and undamaged." The Rainy Rolls is a surrealist illusion, a rain shower on wheels. The project was so successful that it even began creating odd illusions in the garage. "It's stupid," Cerf admitted, "but when I'm around the car all day, I start to feel as if it's raining outside." This effect captures the essence of Dalí's original vision.


A Surreal Legacy

Dalí's Rainy Taxi was more than just a visual trick—it was a metaphorical joke. Automobiles are a fixture in everyday life, and getting into a car to avoid the rain is a familiar scenario. But stepping into a car where it rains inside turns our expectations upside down, embodying the surrealist principle of unexpected juxtapositions.


The Rainy Rolls continues this legacy, blending the mechanical with the absurd to create a thought-provoking experience. It stands as a testament to Dalí's genius and the enduring power of surrealism to challenge our perceptions and provoke our imaginations.


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