Thursday, November 03, 2011

Desert Flower Trilogy

Howells department store in Cardiff is where the posh people of south Wales do their shopping. The well-heeled have been purchasing horrendously expensive goods from there for decades. For mere commoners like myself the huge emporium functions only as a convenient means of getting from St Mary Street to the Hayes Island pissoir without getting wet during bouts of inclement weather.

In 1961 Howells did something unexpectedly cool – they exhibited 3 Salvador Dali paintings on their premises. Known collectively as the Desert Flower Trilogy, the artistic creations had originally been commissioned in the 1940s to promote a new brand of perfume (Desert Flower). American cosmetics firm Shulton’s were behind the original venture and it was they who were doing the Howells promotion.

The 3 paintings (The Invisible Lovers, Mirage and Oasis) had arrived by plane at Rhoose airport and were given a police escort into the city. They were insured for £75,000. Inside the store the artworks were hung near the cosmetics department. A small railing was erected to keep shoppers at a safe distance. An ex-commando was employed by Shulton’s to guard the pictures for the fortnight’s duration of the exhibition. Shop assistants were briefed on the connection between the art and the perfume which they were then able to impart to curious customers.

*The above painting is Mirage which formed part of the Desert Flower trilogy.