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I’ve been to visit ‘Objects of Desire’

Surrealist art tends to be the sort of thing I like, the sort of art that I wish I could take home. There’s something about its playfulness and inventiveness always makes me think a little differently, provoking reflection and contemplation in a way that other art sometimes doesn’t.

I don’t know very much about art or the history of art. I never studied it, and it’s not something that has cropped up in much of my reading. Nor is it something I’ve really sought to read about. But I do enjoy a good exhibition. And to my mind, this collection of surrealist art at London’s Design Museum constituted an excellent exhibition.

There were five objects that especially stood out to me: none of the pictures of these are my own, they are all outrageously stolen from various museum websites.

This is Salvador Dalí’s Lobster Telephone, the archetypical surrealist object and the hero image used in most of the advertising for this exhibition. In the exhibition, it is presented alongside examples of Dalí’s Mae West Lips Sofa and Champagne Standard Lamp in a mock living room.

The telephone stood out to me as an object I’d previously seen and which raised a smile, but whose meaning I hadn’t grasped (or really considered) until it was presented in this exhibition. I hadn’t appreciated that Dalí considered both the lobster and the telephone to be inherently sexual, nor that he positioned the sexual organs of the lobster directly over the mouthpiece.

The absurdity, intrigue, and humour of those details made me appreciate the object anew.

I’ve been to see some of Gaudí’s work before, most notably La Sagrada Família, and while I’ve been awed by the way his work reflects the natural word, I’ve not always been wild about the aesthetic of the end result.

An example of Gaudí’s Calvert Chair is featured in the exhibition as part of a commentary on how his work influenced surrealist art. This is a connection I would never have made without it being pointed out to me. This was a bit of art education encapsulated in a single object, which gave me new understanding. Isn’t that the real power of exhibitions?

They make a bigger deal in the exhibition guide about the connection between Dadaism and surrealism, and feature some work by DuChamp, but to me, the Gaudí connection was less obvious and more interesting.

Conquest by Nina Saunders was, of all the objects I’d love to pilfer, the most obviously impractical option.

This is a 2017 piece with so much to say about the forces which impact the illusion of domestic norms and, depending on how you look at it, either destroy the perception, or force the perception to warp around them. This would certainly make an impact in my living room, and I think you could probably work out some comfortable unorthodox positions to sit on it too (though I’m not certain how Saunders would feel about that).

Wolfgang Paalen’s Le Génie de l’espèce felt like an object of the moment, inseparably representing both guns and death. It actually dates from 1939, very shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War.

This made me think a lot about how humanity never seems to learn the lessons of the past.

I enjoyed the fact that the Campana Brothers’ chair made of plush Disney toys provoked a sense of immediate repulsion, despite being made of soft, friendly characters. If Wendy had been with me, I know she’d have said: “too much.”

Objects of Desire’ continues at the Design Museum until 19 February.

This post was filed under: Art, Post-a-day 2023, Travel, , , , , , , , .

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