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Surrealists from Boijmans land in New Zealand

Dalí’s Mae West Lips Sofa, together with a further 180 Surrealist masterpieces from the Rotterdam collection, have arrived in Wellington, New Zealand. It is the kick-off of a surrealistic world tour, and such a wide-ranging Surrealist exhibition has never been staged in New Zealand before.

After a long journey to the Te Papa Tongarewa museum in Wellington, New Zealand, the works from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s Surrealism collection, which is unparalleled in the Netherlands, have arrived safe and sound. Four of the Dutch museum’s staff escorted the works to New Zealand. From 24 May curators will be installing the exhibition ‘Surrealist Art: Masterpieces from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’ (Maori title: ‘He Toi Pohewa: He Toi Marupō o Muhiama o Boijmans Van Beuningen’), which opens on 12 June. The exhibition introduces the public to Surrealist highlights by Salvador Dalí, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Francis Picabia, René Magritte, Leonora Carrington and others.

Masterpieces in mid-air

The masterpieces on tour include key Surrealist works that include drawings, prints and books, besides icons like Dalí’s Mae West Lips Sofa (1938), a playfully contrarian sofa in the form of luscious red lips. The exhibition also includes prominent paintings, such as Francis Picabia’s Come Over There With Me (1948) and René Magritte’s Not to Be Reproduced (1937), a work in which a figure gazes into the mirror and sees nothing but the back of his own head. The recently acquired Again the Gemini are in the Orchard (1947), a painting Leonora Carrington that is infused with dreamy fantasy, will also be exhibited. 

Masterpieces in mid-air
Salvador Dalí, Mae West Lips Sofa, 1938, collectie Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.

Transportation on a grand scale

It is the first time that the Boijmans Van Beuningen collection has gone on show in New Zealand, and the ensemble of works is the most comprehensive exhibition of Surrealists that has ever been held there. The transportation of such an exceptional collection presents logistical challenges: travelling museum artefacts are packaged by specialists and protected against fluctuations in temperature, vibrations and other conditions that can arise during the voyage. The artworks were mounted in climate-controlled crates for safe conveyance from the depot all the way to the Te Papa museum in New Zealand. 

Transportation on a grand scale
Photo by Aad Hoogendoorn

Boijmans Abroad

After New Zealand the exhibition is touring to other museums around the world. Under the title ‘A Surreal Shock. Masterpieces from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’, from 27 November 2021 through to 6 March 2022 the works will be shown at the Seoul Arts Center (SAC) in South Korea. Their journey will then continue to Mexico City. A touring exhibition like this elevates the international visibility of the museum and the city of Rotterdam.

The doors of the renovated and refurbished museum building are set to open in 2026. In the meantime the collection is being exhibited at other museums in the Netherlands and abroad, as well as in the depot. The impressive collection, with masterpieces from throughout Western art history, applied art and design, can be seen from this autumn in Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen, an iconic design by MVRDV and the first publicly accessible art depot in the world.