Thursday, June 23, 2016

Surreal Encounters: Collecting the Marvellous

4 June – 11 September 2016

Masterpieces from four of the finest collections of Dada and Surrealist art ever assembled will be brought together in this summer's major exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (SNGMA). Surreal Encounters: Collecting the Marvellous will explore the passions and obsessions that led to the creation of four very different collections, which are bound together by a web of fascinating links and connections, and united by the extraordinary quality of the works they comprise.

Surrealism was one of the most radical movements of the twentieth century, which challenged conventions through the exploration of the subconscious mind, the world of dreams and the laws of chance. Emerging from the chaotic creativity of Dada (itself a powerful rejection of traditional values triggered by the horrors of the First World War) its influence on our wider culture remains potent almost a century after it first appeared in Paris in the 1920s.

World-famous works by Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, René Magritte, Leonora Carrington, Giorgio de Chirico, André Breton, Man Ray, Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst, Dorothea Tanning, Yves Tanguy, Leonor Fini, Marcel Duchamp and Paul Delvaux will be among the 400 paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, artist books and archival materials, to feature in Surreal Encounters.

The exhibition has been jointly organised by the SNGMA, the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam and the Hamburger Kunsthalle, where it will be shown following its only UK showing in Edinburgh.

Dalí's The Great Paranoiac (1936), Lobster Telephone (1938)

Salvador DALI (1904-1989)
Impressions d'Afrique (Impressions of Africa), 1938
Oil on canvas, 91.5 x 117.5cm
Collection: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (Formerly collection of E. James),
Purchased with the support of The Rembrandt Association (Vereniging Rembrandt), Prins Bernhard Fonds, Erasmusstichting, Stichting Bevordering van Volkskracht Rotterdam and Stichting Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen 1979
© Salvador Dali, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, DACS, 2015

and Impressions of Africa (1938);

de Chirico’s Two Sisters (1915);

Ernst's Pietà or Revolution by Night (1923)

and Dark Forest and Bird (1927), and 

Magritte’s The Magician’s Accomplice (1926) and  

René MAGRITTE (1898-1967)
La reproduction interdite (Not to be Reproduced), 1937
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam © Beeldrecht Amsterdam 2007.
Photographer: Studio Tromp, Rotterdam
© ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2015

Not to be Reproduced (1937) will be among the highlights of this exceptional overview of Surrealist art. The exhibition will also tell the personal stories of the fascinating individuals who pursued these works with such dedication and discernment.

The first of these - the poet, publisher and patron of the arts, Edward James (1907-84) and the artist, biographer and exhibition organiser, Roland Penrose (1900-84) - acquired the majority of the works in their collections while the Surrealist movement was at its height in the interwar years, their choices informed by close associations and friendships with many of the artists.

James was an important supporter of Salvador Dalí and René Magritte in particular, while Penrose was first introduced to Surrealism through a friendship with Max Ernst. The stories behind James’s commissioning of works such as

Dalí’s famous Mae West Lips Sofa (1938) and

Magritte’s The Red Model III (1937)

and the role of PUne Semaine de Bonté (1934) will demonstrate how significant these relationships were for both the artists and the collectors.

enrose in the production of Ernst’s seminal collage novel

Other celebrated works on show that formed part of these two profoundly important collections include

Tanning’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (1943);

Magritte’s On the Threshold of Liberty (1937);

Joan MIRÓ (1893-1983)
Tête de Paysan Catalan [Head of a Catalan Peasant], 1925
Oil on canvas, 92.4 x 73 cm
Collection: Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
Purchased jointly with Tate, with the assistance of the Art Fund 1999
Miró’s Head of a Catalan Peasant (1925); and The House Opposite (c.1945) by Leonora Carrington.

While the Penrose and James collections are now largely dispersed, the extraordinary collection of Dada and Surrealist art put together by Gabrielle Keiller (1908-95), was bequeathed in its entirety to the SNGMAon her death in 1995, the largest benefaction in the institution’s history. Keiller devoted herself to this area following a visit to the Venice home of the celebrated American art lover Peggy Guggenheim in 1960, which proved to be a pivotal moment in her life. She went on to acquire outstanding works such as Marcel Duchamp’s La Boîte-en-Valise (1935-41),  Alberto Giacometti’s Disagreeable Object, to be Thrown Away (1931)

and Girl Born without a Mother (c.1916-17) by Francis Picabia.

Recognizing the fundamental significance of Surrealism’s literary aspect, Keiller also worked assiduously to create a magnificent library and archive, full of rare books, periodicals, manifestos and manuscripts, which makes the SNGMA one of the world’s foremost centres for the study of the movement.

The exhibition will be brought up to date by the inclusion of works from the collection of Ulla and Heiner Pietzsch, who have spent more than 40 years in their quest to build up an historically balanced collection of Surrealism, which they have recently presented to the city of Berlin, where they still live.  The collection features many outstanding paintings by Francis Picabia, Pablo Picasso, André Masson, Leonor Fini, Ernst, Tanguy, Magritte and Miró; sculptures by Hans Arp and Hans Bellmer; and works by André Breton, the leader of the Surrealists. Highlights include Masson’s Massacre (1931), Ernst’s Head of ‘The Fireside Angel’ (c.1937),


Pablo PICASSO (1881–1973)
Femme aux arabesques (Arabesque Woman), 1931
Oil on canvas, 100 x 81cm
Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg/ Pietzsche Collection

Picasso’s Arabesques Woman (1931) and Arp’s sculpture Assis (Seated) (1937).

The exhibition’s curator in Edinburgh, Keith Hartley, who is Deputy Director of the SNGMA, has said, “Surrealist art has captured the public imagination like perhaps no other movement of modern art. The very word ‘surreal’ has become a by-word to describe anything that is wonderfully strange, akin to what André Breton, the chief theorist of Surrealism, called ‘the marvellous’. This exhibition offers an exceptional opportunity to enjoy art that is full of ‘the marvellous’. It brings together many important works which have rarely been seen in public, by a wide range of Surrealist artists, and creates some very exciting new juxtapositions.”

“The four collections represented here have different origins and trajectories, different historical contexts and come out of different creative urges.  But what they all display is a high level of quality, aesthetic discernment, dedication and commitment, and the collectors themselves, while passionate about their private visions, were and are always mindful of contributing something to the public good. It is therefore not surprising that the ways in which Surrealist art has been collected display many of the idiosyncratic passions of Surrealism itself.”

Surreal Encounters will be accompanied by a lavishly illustrated catalogue, with contributions from Dawn Ades, Richard Calvocoressi, Désirée de Chair, Elizabeth Cowling, Hubertus Gaβner, Annabelle Görgen, Keith Hartley, Saskia van Kampen-Prein and Antony Penrose.  240 pp, 200 colour illustrations.

Also see Surrealism, two private eyes:  the Nesuhi Ertegen and Daniel Filipacchi Collections.

Over the course of almost five decades, famed magazine publisher Daniel Filipacchi and record producer Nesuhi Ertegun assembled the most important grouping of Surrealist art in private hands. This extraordinary two-volume set captures the full range, paradoxical nature and fascinating aspects of Surrealism. Featuring works by leading figures of the movement such as Giorgio de Chirico, Joseph Cornell, Salvador Dal', Max Ernst, Rena Magritte, Man Ray and Yves Tanguy, this slipcased set is comprised almost entirely of full-page, full-color reproductions. Major paintings, sculpture, photographs, works on paper, rare books and off-the-cuff ephemera appear alongside complementary texts, creating a complete guide to one of the most intriguing movements in art history.