I want my museum to be a single block, a labyrinth, a great surrealist object. It will be [a] totally theatrical museum. The people who come to see it will leave with the sensation of having had a theatrical dream.:1
— Salvador Dalí
The heart of the museum is the town's theatre that Dalí knew as a child. It was where one of the first public exhibitions of young Dalí's art was shown. The old theatre was burned during the Spanish Civil War and remained in a state of ruin. In 1960, Dalí and the mayor of Figueres decided to rebuild it as a museum dedicated to the town's most famous son.:4 In 1968, the city council approved the plan, and construction began the following year.:4 The architects were Joaquim de Ros i Ramis and Alexandre Bonaterra.:152 The museum opened on September 28, 1974,:4 and it expanded through the mid-1980s. The museum now includes buildings and courtyards adjacent to the old theatre.
The museum displays the single largest and most diverse collection of works by Salvador Dalí, the core of which was from the artist's personal collection. In addition to Dalí paintings from all decades of his career, there are Dalí sculptures, three-dimensional collages, mechanical devices, and other curiosities from Dalí's imagination. A highlight is a three-dimensional anamorphic living-room installation with custom furniture that looks like the face of Mae West when viewed from a certain spot.:156:28
The museum also houses a small selection of works by other artists collected by Dalí, ranging from El Greco and Bougereau to Marcel Duchamp and John de Andrea,:35 In accordance with Dalí's specific request, a second-floor gallery is devoted to the work of his friend and fellow Catalan artist Antoni Pitxot, who also became director of the museum after Dalí's death.
A glass geodesic dome cupola crowns the stage of the old theatre, and Dalí is buried in a crypt below the stage floor.:19 The space formerly occupied by the audience has been transformed into a courtyard open to the sky, with Dionysian nude figurines standing in the old balcony windows.:12–17 A Dalí installation inside a full-sized automobile, inspired by Rainy Taxi (1938), is parked near the centre of the space.:12–15