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Card Tricks are Surreal Fun at the Springfield Museums

Card Tricks

Salvador Dalí and the Art of Playing Cards

August 20, 2022–November 20, 2022

D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts


Springfield (MA)—Springfield Museums presents the exhibit Card Tricks: Salvador Dalí and the Art of Playing Cards, August 20, 2022–November 20, 2022 in the Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts. This exhibit highlights not only Salvador Dalí’s art, but also includes examples of creative card decks designed by artists working today.

“Like Dalí’s Surrealist paintings, his playing card designs defy logic, embrace the absurd, and deal in visual trickery,” writes Maggie North, Curator of Art at the Springfield Museums. “Salvador Dali excelled at creating vivid depictions of impossible scenes, often fooling the eye with what he called image of “concrete irrationality.” Dali’s playing card designs are filled with characteristically irrational details such as a Jack wearing a dragon hat or a king whose castle has been turned upside down.

Located in the Starr Gallery, this small but mighty exhibit gave North the opportunity to highlight important art from the Museums collections that are not always on display. “The Salvador Dalí prints in this exhibition have not been displayed since 2004. Like other works on paper in the Springfield Museums’ collections, the prints are light sensitive and will fade if left on view for a long period of time,” explains North. “By rotating our works on paper collections, the Museums can both share fascinating artwork and preserve it for future generations.”

Many people are familiar with the “Paris Pattern” cards, that depict kings, queens and Jacks with black and red suits of clubs, spades, diamonds and hearts. But the Paris Pattern is by no means the only interpretation of playing cards.

For hundreds of years, playing cards have captured the imaginations of creative individuals. Possibly used in China as early as early as the 10th century, cards could be found in Egypt and Europe by the 1400s. In subsequent eras, they became more popular and accessible due to innovations in printing technologies. Essential to the ongoing development of playing cards are the many artists who have conceptualized, designed, and reinterpreted card decks.

In the late 1960s, the influential surrealist artist Salvador Dalí (Spanish, 1904-1989) partnered with the French printing firm Draeger Frerés to produce 17 designs that were released as limited-edition playing cards. Shortly after, Dalí created lithographs highlighting those designs. This exhibition features eight works from Dalí’s Playing Card Suite, drawn from the permanent collection of the Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts. Dalí’s interpretations are characterized by vibrant colors, cubist forms, and distinctive motifs such as melting clocks.

In addition to exploring Dalí’s contribution to a long history of playful design, this exhibition celebrates contemporary artists who continue to generate new and varied interpretations of playing cards. Included in this exhibit are decks of cards designed by Kearra Johnson who replaced traditional face cards with influential Black Americans such as Malcolm X and Michelle Obama; Shantell Martin who highlights LGBTQ+ pride; and Rico Worl, who celebrates raven stories of the Indigenous peoples of the northern Pacific Coast.

Image Credit: Playing Card Suite, Queen of Diamonds (left) and Playing Card Suite, King of Diamonds (right), circa 1970, lithographs by Salvador Dalí (Spanish, 1904-1989). Gift of Reese Palley and Marilyn Arnold Palley, 91.D21b. and 91.D21c. Photography by John Polak., One Admission/Five Museums,

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About The Springfield Museums

THE SPRINGFIELD MUSEUMS are located on the Quadrangle at 21 Edwards Street in the heart of downtown Springfield, Massachusetts. The nationally accredited and Smithsonian-affiliated consortium of museums includes the Springfield Science Museum, the Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, the Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History, the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum, the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden, and the Amazing World of Dr. SeussMuseum, the first and only museum dedicated to the beloved children’s book author and Springfield native.


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