It is no coincidence that René Magritte’s first European retrospective exhibition in 1967 took place at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.
Spearheaded by curator Renilde Hammacher-van den Brande (1913-2014), the museum had just begun to build an impressive collection of Surrealist works, which would later become one of the cornerstones of the collection. This world-class collection includes works by René Magritte, Salvador Dalí, Yves Tanguy and Paul Delvaux and is constantly being expanded.
The Magritte exhibition was the first of a series of Surrealist exhibitions at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, including a Salvador Dalí retrospective in 1970. The Spanish artist’s attendance at the opening in Rotterdam was a sensation. Thousands of people braved the winter cold each day to queue to see the exhibition. The Dutch press couldn’t get enough of the Surrealist whom André Breton dubbed ‘Avida Dollars’ (an anagram of Salvador Dalí) because of his commercialism.
In addition to Surrealist paintings and sculptures, the museum has an important collection of rare Surrealist publications, magazines and manifestos. These include pamphlets known as papillons (butterflies) that artists handed out on the streets. The museum’s library has seven rare papillons from 1924, in which the artists called upon the public to adopt a Surrealist way of thinking.
Way of life
The Surrealist movement was born in Paris in the early 1920s. Visual artists, poets and philosophers were drawn together by their rejection of bourgeois society and their preference for associative rather than rational thought processes. Surrealism was more of a way of life than a style. Surrealist artists believed in the power of dreams and combined materials and techniques to create works designed to shock and alienate.