June 2009, Volume 13, Number 6

Cultural Spotlight

MDC celebrates the masters, old and new

Salvador Dali, The Divine Comedy, Canto 20, xylography, 1959
Salvador Dali, The Divine Comedy, Canto 20, xylography, 1959
Leonardo da Vinci, Profile of an old man, brown pen and brown ink, 1452
Leonardo da Vinci, Profile of an old man, brown pen and brown ink, 1452

In a milestone year in which Miami Dade College’s Art Gallery System (AGS) saw its premier exhibition location, the Freedom Tower at MDC, designated a National Historic Landmark, the AGS also flexed its curatorial muscle.

In three prominent exhibitions, the AGS feted an iconic, avant-garde surrealist, honored a modern comic book legend and premiered pieces by classical master Leonardo da Vinci for the first time in the U.S.


In December, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne designated the Freedom Tower as a new National Historic Landmark. The designation recognizes sites as nationally significant historic places because they possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States.

Fittingly, the new landmark celebrated the restoration of a 60-by-20 foot mural of the New World. The piece, a re-creation of what remained of an original tapestry from the 1920s, is a symbol of our shared heritage. It celebrates the arrival of Europeans in America, a likely reason for its original commission when the Freedom Tower was built in 1925. It is a treasure.

And as the project of turning the Freedom Tower into a cultural center for Miami evolves, the iconic historical elements of the building will become important references for a better understanding of the city’s history.


MDC hosted an exhibition worthy of the building’s new status. The international exhibition – from Biblioteca Ambrosiana, a historic library in Milan, Italy – featured never-before traveled works by Italian masters Leonardo da Vinci, Tiziano Vecellio and Giovanni Ambrogio de Predis, and German master Albrecht Durer.

And following that, the AGS presented The Divine Comedy by Salvador Dalí, a series that Dalí called one of the most important of his career. It is considered by many to be his most notable work.

Comprised of 100 watercolors, The Divine Comedy contained haunting imagery, ranging from the grotesque to the sublime, as the artist followed the story of Dante from the deepest circles of Hell, up the mountain of Purgatory and into heavenly Paradise.

The exhibition, which ran through January, is part of the Caixanova Permanent Collection in Vigo, Spain.

“Dalí lifted surrealism, in an inimitable self-willed manner, to exceptional heights. This unique exhibition is a journey through Dante’s literary creativity viewed by Dalí’s psychological insights and inscrutable symbolism,” said Jorge Gutiérrez, AGS director.

In addition, MDC’s Art Gallery System recognized a contemporary master artist. To celebrate Miami Book Fair International’s newest series, the Comix Galaxy, the AGS presented an exhibition featuring the work of Will Eisner, “father” of the graphic novel and one of the greatest cartoonists of the 20th century.

Eisner’s ideas, theories and creative approach to the application of time, space and visual forms in the practice of graphic narrative were pioneering and unique.

The Centre Gallery at MDC’s Wolfson Campus served as home to a comprehensive presentation of original Eisner artwork including drawings, prints, audiovisuals and photographs. The exhibition provided a comprehensive behind-the-scenes look at the man who inspired a generation of writers and artists.

— Katherine Joss

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