The Persistence of Memory (1931) by Salvador Dali

Dali blockbuster opens in Paris this week

Surrealist's retrospective aims to reassess the performance works while also drawing in big crowds

A true avant-guardist, yet strikingly popular, Salvador Dali was as well known for his public persona as for his astounding paintings. When Le Centre Pompidou's major Dali retrospective opens later this week, the curators aim to pull in crowds by drawing together his extrovert life with his inimitable works, to present a full impression of the artist as sculptor, painter and performer.

Simply entitled Dali, the exhibition, which begins on Wednesday and runs until 25 March 2012 before transferring to Madrid, consists over 200 items, ranging from paintings, drawings and sculptures, through to films and archive video clips. Its curators have placed added emphasis on Dali's extrovert behaviour, classing his peculiar TV appearances as an early precursor to performance art.


Salvador Dali interviewed by Mike Wallace, 1958

There's also a strong attempt to establish associations between Dali's art and the scientific breakthroughs of the day, with co-curator Thierry Dufrêne, professor of contemporary art history at the University of Paris West Nanterre, asserting a clear link between Dali's works and James Watson and Francis Crick's discovery of DNA as well as Niels Bohr's model of atomic structure.

But this is no dry academic reassessment. The huge number of works on show include big hitters such as the Persistence of Memory, loaned from MoMA, as well as recreations of famous installations, like the Mae West room from the Dalí Theatre-Museum in Figueres. Expect some Surrealist flourishes too: Ticket holders will enter through an egg and exit through a brain.

Also, prepare for crowds. The Guardian thinks the show could break attendance records, citing the last Parisian Dali retrospective in 1979, which was the best-attended show in the Pompidou's history, drawing almost 900,000 visitors. Meanwhile, high-profile exhibitions in the Parisian capital have proved recession proof, with the 2010 Monet retrospective at Paris' Grand Palais drawing around 920,000 visitors.

Meranwhile, CNN reports that a Goodwill shop in Tacoma, Washington received a valuable Dali print from an anonymous donor. Having been pulled out from the pile of unwanted items by sharp-eyed staff, the 1979 signed coloured etching is now for sale on Goodwill's site, with a current bid of $18,525.00. Proof that, at least in some quarters, the surrealist's appeal remains undiminished.