Te Papa’s winter exhibition Surrealist Art: Masterpieces from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen | He Toi Pohewa: He Toi Marupō o Muhiama o Boijmans Van Beuningen opens to the public on Saturday 12 June and runs until 31 October 2021.
The 180 compelling masterpieces from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, Netherlands include major works by artists such as Salvador Dalí, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Max Ernst, René Magritte, and Leonora Carrington.
Transported through a series of galleries, visitors will learn about dada, the movement that preceded surrealism. They will explore how dreams, chance, and desire inspired the art of the surrealists.
Iconic surrealist works on display include Salvador Dalí’s Mae West Lips Sofa (1938), a playfully subversive couch shaped as a lush pair of red lips; René Magritte’s The glass house (1939), an uncanny masterpiece in which a man’s face looks out from the back of his head; and Dalí’s Venus de Milo with drawers, 1936 (1964), a sculpture that cheekily suggests opening a drawer to access Venus’ secret dreams and desires.
The exhibition showcases the incredible wealth and diversity of surrealism. It includes not only masterpiece paintings and sculpture, but also cutting-edge film, photography, design, and more.
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 highlights the creative, influential and revolutionary nature of these artists and their work,” Ms Johnston says.
At the heart of the exhibition is a group of Salvador Dalí’s most important paintings. Dating from the 1930s, these works showcase Dalí’s captivating and unique surrealist painting technique. They are among his most important works, and it is the first time that any of these paintings have been seen in New Zealand.
Te Papa has created a large-scale digital interpretation of Dalí’s 1938 work Impressions of Africa, which will sit inside the exhibition. Impressions of Africa depicts the artist at his easel, in a desert-like landscape. Around him, many other images meld and merge into each other: a market scene appears within an image of a donkey, a cliff transforms into a bird, figures and faces emerge from within rocky caves. Te Papa’s high definition video immerses visitors in the multiple scenes that appear in this magical work.
Te Papa’s 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.”
A small exhibition curated to sit in conversation with Surrealist Art | He Toi Pohewa titled Surrealist Impulse uses art works drawn from the Te Papa art collection to explore a localised (New Zealand) and Māori relationship with surrealism.
Art works by two leading contemporary Māori artists, Michael Parekowhai and Shane Cotton, demonstrate the influence of surrealism on their work, but rather than being a literal reimagining, the work from both the artists instead reveal an ethos related to the surrealist movement.
Surrealist Art | He Toi Pohewa will be the largest surrealist exhibition ever shown in Aotearoa and the Boijmans collection has never before travelled to New Zealand. 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 includes artworks from the 1920s to the 2000s.
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam is currently closed while 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 as part of Boijmans Abroad.
“We are proud to exhibit these surrealist masterpieces at Te Papa and present the surrealists to the people of New Zealand. Over the past ten years, highlights have been purchased from the oeuvres of Unica Zürn, Leonora Carrington, and Eileen Agar and added to our extensive surrealist collection. We are very pleased that these acquisitions are now being shown to an international audience for the first time. We’re very curious how the visitors of Te Papa will react when standing face to face with these surrealist works of art.”
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen draws approximately 300,000 visitors per year with many visitors attracted by the unique, world famous collection of surrealist art.
Trip adviser reviews Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s surrealist art collection:
- “I feel so lucky that I saw … A Couple with Their Heads Full of Clouds (Salvador Dalí). I was so touched from the masterpieces.” – Anna C
- “The Surrealism selection is outstanding. Dali is represented, as is Max Ernst with his marvellous Le Couple. The highlight for us was Rene Magritte with his imaginative Red Boot, Not to be Reproduced and the juxtaposition of unlikely objects on an isolated dirt track.” – Permia
For the first time, Te Papa is offering a youth ticket 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.
Ellie Campbell, Senior Communications Advisor
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Image captions and credits
Exhibition visitor images
Visitors view Salvador Dalí’s Mae West Lips Sofa, 1938, in Te Papa’s Surrealist Art: Masterpieces from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen exhibition. © Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí/VEGAP. Copyright Agency, 2021. Photo by Jo Moore, 2021. Te Papa
India from Kingston, Wellington, views Salvador Dalí’s Couple With Their Heads Full Of Clouds, 1936, in Te Papa’s Surrealist Art: Masterpieces from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen exhibition. © Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí/VEGAP. Copyright Agency, 2021. Photo by Jo Moore, 2021. Te Papa
Annie and Lily from Mt. Cook, Wellington, view J. H. Moesman’s Afternoon, 1932, in Te Papa’s Surrealist Art: Masterpieces from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen exhibition. Courtesy of the Moesman Estate. Photo by Jo Moore, 2021. Te Papa
Ellie and Craig from Wellington stand before Magritte’s Mirror in Te Papa’s Surrealist Art: Masterpieces from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen exhibition. Photo by Jo Moore, 2021. Te Papa
Hugo from Brooklyn, Wellington, examines René Magritte’s The Glass House, 1939, in Te Papa’s Surrealist Art: Masterpieces from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen exhibition. © René Magritte/ADAGP. Copyright Agency, 2021. Photo by Jo Moore, 2021. Te Papa
Jan from Miramar, Wellington, listens to the voices of Dada in Te Papa’s Surrealist Art: Masterpieces from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen exhibition. Photo by Jo Moore, 2021. Te Papa
Salvador Dalí, Couple with their heads in the clouds, oil on panel, 1936. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. Purchase with the support of: the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Foundation, the Rembrandt Association, the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds, the Erasmusstichting and Stichting Bevordering van Volkskracht. Photo: Studio Tromp. © Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí/VEGAP. Copyright Agency, 2020.
Salvador Dalí, Mae West Lips Sofa, wood, woollen flannel, cotton and brass rivets, 1938. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (purchase with the support of the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Foundation and the Rembrandt Association). Photo: Jannes Linders. © Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí/VEGAP. Copyright Agency, 2020.
René Magritte, The glass house, gouache on paper, 1939. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. Photo: Studio Tromp. © René Magritte/ADAGP. Copyright Agency, 2020.
Salvador Dalí, Venus de Milo with drawers, bronze, paint and fur, 1936 (1964). Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. Photo Jannes Linders. © Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí/VEGAP. Copyright Agency, 2020.
Unica Zürn, Circus, 1956, oil on canvas. © Verlag Brinkmann & Bose, Berlin, Germany. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. Photo: Studio Tromp
Unica Zürn, Composition, 1955, gouache on paper. © Verlag Brinkmann & Bose, Berlin, Germany. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. Photo: Studio Tromp
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen and Sjarel Ex
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. Photo by Aad Hoogendoorn
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Director Sjarel Ex. Photo by Fred Ernst
Charlotte Davy, 2016. Photograph by Michael Hall. Te Papa (91133)
Lizzie Bisley, Curator Modern Art. Photo by Jack Fisher. Te Papa
Lizzie Bisley, Curator Modern Art. Photo by Jack Fisher. Te Papa
PLEASE NOTE that these images are provided for the purposes of news reporting in relation to this specific exhibition project only. The images are for use in New Zealand and Australia only. You MAY NOT crop, edit, overprint, recolour, or otherwise manipulate these images in any way. The images must always be fully credited, as per the provided credit lines, in every instance of reuse. If you would like to reuse these images in future, please contact Te Papa for advice on a case-by-case basis and we will direct you to the appropriate institution(s) for further clearance(s).
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 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 Surrealist Art | He Toi Pohewa.
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.
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).
Surrealist art talks
Saturday 19 June, 14 August, 18 September. 2pm. Free. Rongomaraeroa, Level 4.
Dive deeper into the surrealists’ world with kōrero from the curator of Surrealist Art Lizzie Bisley, and experts Dr. Chelsea Nichols and Dr. Ray Spiteri.
Talk: Introducing Surrealism!
Saturday 19 June. 2pm. Free. Rongomaraeroa, Level 4.
Dive into the world of the surrealists. An introduction to the ideas, people and art behind the movement with Curator Modern Art, Lizzie Bisley.
Surrealist Art whānau day: Expect the unexpected!
Thursday 15 July 2021, 10am–3pm. Free. Wellington Foyer, Level 2.
Bring the family for a surreal day of activities and performances. Be surprised, delighted, confused and excited!
Talk: A Mouthful of Fur – The Hairy, Furry and Beastly Symbolism of Female Surrealists
Saturday 14 August. 2pm. Free. Rongomaraeroa, Level 4.
Hear Dr. Chelsea Nichols untangle the symbolic use of animal fur in artworks by female surrealist artists including Meret Oppenheim, Dorothea Tanning, and Leonora Carrington.
Film Screening: Spellbound (PG)
Sunday 29 August, 2pm. Free. Soundings Theatre, Level 2.
Get swept up in the mystery of Spellbound, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1945 classic. Featuring a surreal dream sequence designed by Salvador Dalí.
Dreaming after dark
Friday 10 September, 7:30pm-10:30pm. $29. Level 4.
A night at the museum like no other. Enter a dreamscape of otherworldly performance, strange stories, experimental games and activities, and surrealist art! Adults only.
Talk: On the Threshold of Liberty – Surrealism and Politics
Saturday 18 September. 2pm. Free. Rongomaraeroa, Level 4.
Dr. Raymond Spiteri explores the dynamic between politics and culture that animates the history of surrealism.
Sensory tours for blind and low vision visitors
See website for more information. Free with exhibition entry.
Discover the exhibition with this tour designed for blind and low-vision visitors.
By the numbers
Number of sculptures: 17
Number of pieces of furniture: 1
Number of paintings: 41
Number of graphic design works: 37
Number of works on paper: 49
Number of photographs: 13
Number of artists: 48
Artists from which countries? France, Holland, USA, Austria, Romania, Germany, Britain, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Mexico, Cuba.
The oldest piece: A set of eight lithographs by the German artist Kurt Schwitters, done in 1919.
The most recent piece: A 2011 painting by the Belgian surrealist Jacques Lacomblez.
The largest piece: Salvador Dali’s Mae West Lips Sofa.
The smallest piece: Salvador Dali’s trompe l’oeil powder compact, in the form of a telephone dial.
In 2011, Dalí’s portrait of the French poet Paul Eluard sold at Sotheby’s for 13.4 million pounds – the highest price ever fetched at auction for a surrealist work of art.