Surreal things : Mix Creativity
Surreal things
Mix Creativity
Naia Matia Zabala, September 1, 2008
The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao presents one o f the most important temporary exhibitions of 2008: Surreal Things. The exhibition is the first show to explore the influence of one of the 20th century’s leading movements on the world of design, including theater, interior design, fashion, film, architecture, furniture, and advertising. Organized by London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, Surreal Things includes some 250 objects from public and private collections the world over. Some objects are on display to the general public for the first time. The exhibition comes to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, co-producer of the show, after major successes with public and critics alike at the two previous venues, the Victoria & Albert Museum itself and the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam.

SURREAL THINGS/Schiaparelli & Cocteau_Coat
SURREAL THINGS/Schiaparelli & Cocteau_Coat


A setting specially designed for Bilbao by London-based architects Metaphor, and inspired by the Surrealists’ own stunningly exciting mise-en-scènes, transform the entire third floor of Frank Gehry’s building. Against this spectacular backdrop, visitors will be able to see how the last century’s most influential avant-garde art movement actually developed from its beginnings in the political ideology of Karl Marx and the psychoanalysis of Sigmund Freud. The highly unusual, and often very familiar objects on display are by some of the movement’s leading figures, including Salvador Dalí, René Magritte, Jean Arp, Joan Miró, Giorgio de Chirico, Isamu Noguchi, Eileen Agar, Jean Michel Frank, Frederick Kiesler, and Max Ernst.

SURREAL THINGS/Schiaparelli_Tear
SURREAL THINGS/Schiaparelli_Tear


Divided into five theme-based sections, called “The Ballet”, “Surrealism and the Object”, “Nature made Strange”, “Displaying the Body” and “The Illusory Interior”, Surreal Things highlights the evolution of Surrealism from its beginnings as a politically radical avant-garde art movement to its transformation into a worldwide cultural phenomenon which, in just a single decade, revolutionized the world of art, design, fashion, advertising, jewelry, photography, the movies, and the decorative arts and which, even today, continues to exert a good deal of influence on many fields of artistic and cultural endeavor. Salvador Dalí, one of the movement’s most controversial artists, generated no little tension with the original Surrealist group through his commitment to the world of objects and commerce. Dalí summed up his desire to create objects thus: “I try to create fantastic things, magical things, things like in a dream. The world needs more fantasy.



SURREAL THINGS/G de Chirico_Le Bal
SURREAL THINGS/G de Chirico_Le Bal


Our civilization is too mechanical. We can make the fantastic real, transforming it into something more real than what really exists.” But Dalí was not the only artist criticized by others in the movement for his relation with the world of commerce. When Joan Miró and Max Ernst created a series of stage settings and costume designs for the Russian Ballet, André Breton, the movement’s founder, and one of the most intransigent defenders of the original Surrealist spirit as an aesthetic movement using automatic techniques to reflect the dream world, launched a ferocious attack.

SURREAL THINGS/G de Chirico_Le Bal
SURREAL THINGS/G de Chirico_Le Bal


Another of the figures responsible for the ideological dissemination of the movement was British millionaire Edward James, patron of both Magritte and Dalí, who turned his home, Monkton House, into an authentic Surrealist dream and was involved in the creation of some major Surrealist legacies, including Mae West’s lips sofa, the lobster telephones and almost certainly the rose-glove tea set, all of which became part of the decor of this most unusual studio.

SURREAL THINGS/Tanguy_Pendientes Peggy
SURREAL THINGS/Tanguy_Pendientes Peggy


SURREAL THINGS/Dalí & James_Mae West Lips
SURREAL THINGS/Dalí & James_Mae West Lips


To show how, despite these discrepancies, most of the artists associated with Surrealism also worked in other media, the exhibition presents, together with paintings by artists like René Magritte, Max Ernst, Salvador Dalí and Yves Tanguy, some objects that have become genuine icons of the movement: from Dalí’s Mae West Lips Sofa (1938) to his Lobster Telephone (Téléphone-Homard, 1938), not forgetting the creations of inspired fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli, including her Tear o Skeleton dresses (both from 1938), or Meret Oppenheim’s recently discovered Table with Bird’s Legs (Tisch mit Vogelfüssen, from 1939).

SURREAL THINGS/G de Chirico_Le Bal
SURREAL THINGS/G de Chirico_Le Bal


Other outstanding exhibits in Surreal Things include Giorgio de Chirico’s costume designs and stage settings for Diaghilev’s Le Bal (1929), Dalí’s 1963/64 creation Venus de Milo with Drawers (Venus de Milo aux Tiroirs , 1936/64), Oscar Dominguez’s Wheelbarrow (Brouette , c. 1937), the recently discovered Surrealist cage, by Jean-Michel Frank for Elsa Schiaparelli’s boutique in the Place Vendôme in Paris (1937) or Max Ernst’s Bed-cage with Screen (Lit-Cage et son Paravent , 1974).

SURREAL THINGS/Oppenheim_Tisch mit
SURREAL THINGS/Oppenheim_Tisch mit


www.guggenheim-bilbao.es