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“You’re Spanish,” he said to me, “I can see that right off. I’m from Puerto Rico. Why are you here?”
“I broke a window,” I answered.
“That’s nothing. They’ll fine you a few dollars, and that’s all. It was a saloon, wasn’t it? In what part of town did you break the window?”
“It wasn’t a saloon, it was a shop on Fifth Avenue.”
“Fifth Avenue!” exclaimed the small gentleman from Puerto Rico, in a manner indicating that I had suddenly risen in his estimation. Immediately taking me under his protection he added, “You can tell me all about it later. Right now stay close to me and don’t be afraid of anything. Nobody’ll touch you while you’re here.”
He must certainly have been an important figure in these circles.”1
In 1939, during a visit to New York, Salvador Dalí was invited to dress two windows at Bonwit Teller Fifth Avenue department store. He hated modern mannequins, “…with their idiotically turned-up noses,” so he looked for old ones made of wax. He designed an intentionally banal presentation, according to his own recollection. One window symbolised Day and the other symbolised Night. The Night window featured a bed with a sleepy head of a buffalo, a bloody pigeon in its mouth, and fake burning coals under the black satin bedsheets. The Day display included a mannequin stepping into a hairy bathtub lined with lamb fur and filled up to the edge with water, holding up a mirror in its beautiful wax arm.
Walking down the avenue a day after install, Dalí was shocked to discover that the display had been altered. Apparently, the original display was so successful that the gathering crowds caused a nuisance in the busy avenue. After his furious complaints to the management were met with indifference, Dalí walked into the Day window and lifted the bathtub. “I felt like the Biblical Samson between the pillars of the temple,” he writes. The tub flipped over and crashed into the store window, “…shattering it into a thousand pieces,” spilling water and glass everywhere. The crowd that gathered around the scene pulled back as the artist calmly stepped out of the window frame and into the avenue.
Forty years later, in 1979, the iconic department store was bought by an up and coming investor. He demolished the building and began constructing a shiny new skyscraper on its ground. He called it after his adopted last name – Trump Tower. Today, there is an artificial waterfall flowing through the building’s atrium.
1 Salvador Dalí. The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí. Dial Press, New York. 1942.