By Leigh Martinez

STOCKTON (CBS13) – Local artists now share gallery space with a world-renowned 20th Century surrealist painter. The unlikely owner of the artwork is the City of Stockton, but it was locked away in the city vault for years until a local art group stepped in to display it.

“From Stockton, there is a lot behind all this art and it came from the streets of Stockton,” said poet and painter Robert Laird.

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Sitting behind Laird’s art, in the same small space, are five pieces created by Salvador Dali. The lithographs were gifted to the city in 2002 by the United Way of San Joaquin County.

United Way president Andrew Prokop said the lithographs, a collection titled ‘Le Jungle Humaine,’ were donated several years ago by a collector, but the United Way had no use for them. The city’s art commission accepted the collection, but had no place to display the work permanently.

“Evidently, there were folks who knew we had them in the collection,” said city spokesperson Connie Cochran. “This is just the first opportunity they’ve had to actually display them.”

Artist Arturo Vera knew the Dali work existed somewhere in City Hall and asked the city to allow his travelling gallery Art Expressions to host them this month.

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“The organizer Arturo has been working with this idea for the last two or three years,” said Art Expressions Board of Directors treasurer Alex Bianchi.

The lithographs are only prints worth a few thousand dollars, but the colorful and surreal vision of Dali has already drawn visitors to the current gallery location inside the Lincoln Center shops. Stockton artists like Laird hope visitors coming for Dali will stay to see who else is sharing wall space.

“I can’t wait to have grandchildren, so I can brag and say ‘look at this.’ Maybe one day I’ll become famous and they’ll see the string down the line,” said Laird.

Art Expressions will host the Dali prints until December 31. The gallery will be on the move again, since it doesn’t have a permanent home. Local San Joaquin County artists can have their work displayed by joining the gallery at under $30 a year.

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