The first sign of the strangeness housed inside dAda mUse, an eccentric art museum on Cimitiere Street, is the enormous egg cupped in a spoon above its entrance.
Under the egg and behind closed doors, the historic building holds Australia's largest collection of works on paper by the moustachioed Spanish artist Salvador Dali.
Dali, the key figure in the surrealist art movement, was one of the 20th century's most unique painters, with his most recognisable work, the melted clocks of his piece The Persistence of Memory.
The two-storey museum in the 1842-built Johnston and Willmott building holds 1500 originals and copies of Dali's drawings, prints and etchings, with the displays rotating regularly.
The uniqueness of the collection being on permanent display in Tasmania is only topped by who owns it: Launceston eye surgeon Dr Brendan Vote, a self-proclaimed "nutty professor".
While studying in Brisbane over 30 years ago, Dr Vote was captivated by a touring Dali exhibition - in particular, the 1937 painting Le Sommeil, which has inspired a lifelong passion for collecting.
"Dali was quite eccentric and quirky, as I am," Dr Vote said.
"You wouldn't necessarily think that surreal painting and eye surgery were related, but they are; surrealism is all about perception."
The birth of dAda mUse
Amassing the collection over a number of years, the Dali works eventually outgrew Dr Vote's office space and home, and five years ago he realised he needed a dedicated gallery.
Eventually finding the heritage-listed, 1842-built Johnston and Willmott building in Cimitiere Street, Dr Vote knew he had found Launceston's home for surrealism.
"Aside from my ophthalmology and Dali passion I also have a passion for giving old buildings a new life," he said.
"Also one of the purposes of art is to get people connecting both contemporaneously and with the past.
"That ties in with the heritage building, with Dali's work and in providing connection for artists and community."
The themes of the collection will rotate with the seasons: in its first three months, the museum showcased works relating to fairy tales, this month flowers and fruit, all of them surreal.
dAda mUse opened in April this year, named after Dali's first artistic love, the almost surreal but more nonsensical dadaism movement, and the root word for museum.
This month its downstairs section is dedicated to a 1968 series of Dali's paintings on flora, and its upstairs filled with rarer pieces.
Many of the rarer works on the second floor are permanently placed and date back to Dali's early career in the '30s, giving insight into his progression as well as his obsession with certain images like ants and melting clocks.
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"It's all very surreal"
Dr Vote said the opening months at dAda mUse have been extremely exciting and rewarding, with out-of-state visitors making special trips to see the unique collection.
"One thing all of us have realised through the COVID pandemic is how important our human connections are," he said.
"This is exactly what the surrealists sought as they came out of the horrors of World War One.
"The surrealist Dorothy Tanning said, 'art has always been the raft onto which we climb to save our sanity. I don't see a different purpose for it now.'"
Aside from his art collecting and status as an "armchair Dali expert", Dr Vote has had an extensive medical career, helping most recently found Australia's first dedicated ophthalmic gene therapy centre in Hobart.
For him, Dali's artistic currency was opening the senses and the minds of others - something he said he feels a kinship with through his own art, that of surgery and the joy of restoring peoples' vision.
"Every-time you look at his works you see something different which is exactly what the surrealists sought," he said.
"To look above or on top of reality with different eyes."
dAda mUse is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10:00am to 4:00pm, with free ground floor access.
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