In 1965, at the request of Anna Kross, then commissioner of corrections in New York, Salvador Dali scrawled off a watercolor with a crucifix and head of Christ, inscribing it: "For the dining room of the prisoners at Rikers Island."
The painting was installed and forgotten, until it turned up in the spotlight again recently when Rikers Island prison warden Alexander Jenkins proudly announced its "rediscovery."
The ensuing brouhaha, focused on the painting's alleged valuation at $75,000 to $100,000, suggested to prison officials that the Dali might be used to help publicize and raise funds for the prison's art development program. In Alexandria, Va., it was seen as a way to raise consciousness about Firebird Gallery, a unique establishment devoted wholly to showing the work of artists in prisons and other institutions.
As a result, with the cooperation of the New York City Department of Corrections, the "Rikers Island Crucifixion" will go on view this afternoon between 2 and 6 at Firebird Gallery, 105-107 Union St., Alexandria, where it will remain through July. "We're hoping it will bring people in to see our show of paintings, drawings and collages by artists in New York prisons and other institutions," says crusading Firebird director Jerry Miller.