DALI TAROT / AUTHOR: JOHANNES FIEBIG / PUBLISHER: TASCHEN / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
There are a lot of legends surrounding the Dali Tarot, not least of which is that Albert R. Broccoli commissioned surrealist maestro Salvador Dali to create the custom tarot deck for the Bond film Live and Let Die. Looking at the deck now, with its exquisitely beautiful heavily detailed Gothic imagery, it’s hard to imagine these cards being at home in Dr Kananga’s self-consciously hip fluorescently lit underground lair. In fact, Dali’s Tarot is too gorgeous to be shoehorned into anybody’s comic strip universe. It’s a tactile work of art that deserves far more appreciation than being flashed for a few seconds across a cinema screen. The fact that Dali’s contract with Broccoli fell through is undoubtedly a blessing.
But, even though 007 was out of the loop, Dali was still determined to make his tarot a reality, albeit on his own terms and while testing his contract partners’ patience with his procrastinating and ever-extending timescales. In the end, after deciding they’d waited far too long for the tarot’s delivery, a New York publisher sued Dali for a substantial amount of money. The case was settled out of court and the deck of 78 cards was eventually published in a limited art edition in 1984. That edition quickly sold out and has been an exorbitantly priced collector’s item ever since, which makes Taschen’s new edition very welcome indeed. This set, which contains handsome reproductions of all 78 Major and Minor Arcana cards plus a comprehensive full colour booklet describing the deck’s history, each card’s meaning, and step-by-step instructions on how to perform readings, really is an object of beauty.
Dali’s Tarot is important for many reasons, not least because Dali’s paranoid-critical method of creating art is all about conveying irrational knowledge through chaos, confusion, and individual interpretation. Pretty much everything the artist produced was a Rorschach test for the soul, and that’s an approach which suits the tenets of tarot perfectly. After all, tarot is chiefly about deciphering the mystery buried deep inside each card’s meaning and imagery and then applying what we’ve discovered through the prism of our own unconscious. No two tarot readers will interpret the same spread of cards in exactly the same way, and Dali’s gorgeous, mesmerising artwork is the perfect vehicle for that kind of dichotomy. Take your time studying these cards and they’ll plug into parts of your mind and imagination that are totally unexpected. Whether you use this deck for tarot or simply admire it as a work of art you can hold in your hands, it’s a handsome addition to anyone’s bookshelf.