World famous collection of surrealism coming to Te Papa

A unique, world famous collection of Surrealist art is coming to Te Papa this summer.

Surrealist Art: Masterpieces from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen | He Toi Pohewa: He Toi Marupō o Muhiama o Boijmans Van Beuningen opens 5 December 2020 and runs until 26 April 2021 in Te Papa’s gallery, Toi Art.

The 180 fascinating pieces include major works by artists such as Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, Leonora Carrington, René Magritte, and Marcel Duchamp.

Te Papa is the only venue in the Asia Pacific region to host the exhibition.

The renowned collection is coming from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam and includes sculpture, furniture, paintings, graphic design, prints, and photography.

Visitors will be able to see iconic Surrealist works such as Dalí’s Mae West Lips Sofa (1938), a playfully subversive couch shaped as a lush pair of red lips, and René Magritte’s La maison de verre (The glass house) (1939), an uncanny masterpiece in which a man’s face looks out from the back of his head.

Courtney Johnston, Te Papa’s Tumu Whakarae | Chief Executive, is delighted that New Zealanders will get this rare opportunity to see some of the world’s most important Surrealist works.

“Surrealist art has created many of the most defining images of the last 100 years. The exhibition will highlight the creative, influential and revolutionary nature of these artists and their work,” Ms Johnston says.

Surrealist Art | He Toi Pohewa will be the largest Surrealist exhibition ever shown in New Zealand. None of the works have been seen in New Zealand before. The last significant Surrealist show toured to the Auckland City Art Gallery in 1972.

Surrealism was launched by manifesto in Paris in 1924 and brought together a group of artists and writers who saw their work as a political act. Surrealist Art | He Toi Pohewa includes artworks from the 1920s to the 1960s.

Te Papa Head of Art Charlotte Davy says that Surrealism sought to disrupt, unsettle and provoke.

“Surrealist artists tried to create a new kind of reality which was centred around dreams, the unconscious and the irrational. They used playful, subversive techniques and materials to shock and surprise their audiences,” Ms Davy says.

“Visitors will be struck by the power of Surrealist ideas which are still incredibly relevant today – both politically and as an influence on contemporary artists.”

The exhibition includes work by all of the major Surrealist artists. The most prominent artist in the exhibition is Salvador Dalí. His works include exquisitely fine paintings and printmaking, playful sculptures and design, and unsettling film.

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is currently undergoing large-scale renovation work. Director Sjarel Ex says he is delighted to be able to present art from their extensive collection in overseas institutions.

“With Boijmans Abroad, our top works from the collection here in Rotterdam can be seen in museums worldwide, and always in a different setting. We wish the Surrealists a good journey and we look forward to seeing them again in our new building Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen,” Mr Ex says.

Te Papa Kaihautū Dr Arapata Hakiwai says Te Papa is honoured to host this significant exhibition.

“We are proud to host an exhibition of this calibre and give New Zealanders the chance to experience art from one of the great galleries of Europe,” Dr Hakiwai says.

For the first time, Te Papa is offering a youth price, with reduced entry charges for people aged under 26.

“We believe the Surrealists’ subversive and playful work will have particular appeal to a young audience, and we want to make this exhibition as accessible as possible to young New Zealanders” says Ms Davy.

Tickets go on sale in October. Find out more and register interest at


Notes to editors


Launched by manifesto in Paris in 1924, Surrealism quickly took the world by storm. It spread across all fields of artistic production, and the influence of Surrealist ideas was felt around the globe. Artists, writers, designers, and filmmakers adopted radical new techniques, subjects, materials, and styles, in their attempt to create a new kind of reality grounded in dreams, the irrational, and the subconscious. Through their work, Surrealist artists aimed to shock, disrupt, and delight. Their ideas have shaped much of the art of the 20th and early 21st centuries.

Salvador Dalí

Salvador Dalí was born in the Spanish city of Figueres in 1904. After training as a painter in Madrid, he moved to Paris in 1929 where he began working with other Surrealist artists. Dalí produced many of his best-known works in Paris in the 1930s. This included playful, subversive sculptures and furniture design, as well as a staggeringly accomplished series of paintings and prints. Dalí’s unsettling, hallucinatory canvases were painted using a method that he called ‘paranoic-critical’, in which the viewer can read several images into a single work. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen have a particularly strong collection of Salvador Dalí’s work, much of which is included in the exhibition.

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is an eclectic and distinctive museum that has stood in the heart of Rotterdam for the past 170 years. The museum takes its name from two important collectors, Frans Boijmans and Daniël George van Beuningen, who enriched the collection with many masterpieces.

The museum has one of the world’s largest collections of Surrealist art, comprising more than 125 paintings and sculptures plus a collection of rare books and publications, which attracts art lovers from all over the world. Several iconic works from this collection were originally owned by the excentric British collector Edward James, who for several years was a patron of Dalí as well as Magritte. He is portrayed in the famous painting La reproduction interdite, which will be on show in Dalí and the Surrealists.

Bosch, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Dalí, and Dutch design: a visit to Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is a journey through the history of art. Dutch and foreign masterpieces provide a comprehensive survey of art from the early Middle Ages to the present day.

Masterpieces by, among many others, Monet, Mondrian and Magritte show the development of Impressionism and Modernism.

The museum has one of the world’s largest collections of Surrealist art and an excellent collection of British and American Pop art with works by David Hockney, Andy Warhol, and Claes Oldenburg. In addition the museum is the place for decorative arts and design: from medieval ceramics and Renaissance glass to furniture by Gerrit Rietveld and contemporary Dutch design.

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is modernising. Last year, the museum began a much-needed, large-scale renovation, which is expected to take seven years. At this moment the museum is building a high-profile depot: in 2021 a new home for the museum collection, that now contains 151,000 pieces, will be opened next door to the main museum. The building, designed by the Dutch architecture firm MVRDV, is the first art depot that will be entirely open to the public – a world first.

Te Papa

The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa was established in 1998 as an innovative bicultural museum. It is known as Te Papa. At its heart is the partnership between the indigenous Māori people and Pākeha, or non-Māori New Zealanders. Te Papa is regularly rated among the world’s best museums, and in a country with a population of four million, receives 1.5 million visitors each year.

As well as the country’s national museum, Te Papa also holds New Zealand’s national art collection, which is shown in its gallery Toi Art. Te Papa multi-disciplinary museum combining science, art and history, and has special strengths in Māori and Pacific taonga (treasures).


Ellie Campbell
Senior Communications Adviser, Te Papa
029 601 0120

Sharon Cohen
Press Officer, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen