Director Sjarel Ex: During the transitional period, when the museum building is undergoing major renovations, art lovers can see works from the museum’s extensive collection at neighbouring venues, in school classes and abroad. The Boijmans Abroad programme sends changing selections of masterpieces from Rotterdam’s collection to museums across the globe. We wish the Surrealists a safe journey and look forward to seeing them again in Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen.
From the end of 2020, the works of more than forty Surrealist artists from the collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam will be exhibited on the other side of the world. The exhibition is the start of a world tour. Prior to the tour, the ‘Rotterdam Surrealists’, including the Mae West Lips Sofa by Salvador Dalí, can be seen at the Cobra Museum in Amstelveen.
The Te Papa Tongarewa Museum in Wellington in New Zealand will show 180 highlights from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s world-renowned famous collection of Surrealist artworks. Te Papa Tongarewa is the National Museum of New Zealand and attracts around 1.8 million visitors annually. The exhibition has been developed jointly by both museums and will take place from 5 December 2020 to 26 April 2021. Dalí and the Surrealists will introduce a broad audience to Surrealist visual art as collected in Rotterdam. The exhibits include the Freudian Venus de Milo with Drawers by Dalí, Not to Be Reproduced by René Magritte and Again the Gemini are in the Orchard, a dream-like fantasy by Leonora Carrington. Less well-known but equally fascinating are works by the Dutch Surrealist Kristians Tonny, and Unica Zürn, a German poet-turned-artist who joined the Surrealist movement in Paris after the Second World War. Following the exhibition in New Zealand, a changing selection of works is expected to visit museums around the world.
Unbridled flow of ideas
Using masterpieces by Dalí from the Rotterdam collection as a reference point, the exhibition charts the development of Surrealism and its varied manifestations. Surrealism was not a coherent movement with a single recognisable style, but stemmed from writers’ and artists’ need to question rational thought, which had dominated since the Enlightenment. The Surrealists explored themes and ideas that were beyond the bounds of logic and reason. They employed unconscious states of mind, such as dreams and trances, whether or not induced by mind-altering substances, to trigger an unbridled flow of ideas, and used chance, games and indirect techniques such as collage, assemblage and frottage to unleash the subconscious mind.
The Spanish artist Salvador Dalí achieved worldwide fame with his works and eccentric personality. Dalí painted like an old master and constructed his dreamlike images from highly realistic objects and figures, often giving them an extra visual dimension: a skull might be made up of the naked bodies of women. Dalí also incorporated these double images into everyday objects, such as his well-known Lobster Telephone and his sofa modelled on the voluptuous red lips of the American actress Mae West.
Dalí and the Surrealists is not the first exhibition in the context of Boijmans Abroad. Works by Dalí and Magritte have previously travelled to London, Edinburgh and Hamburg, and in 2018-2019 a large exhibition of Surrealist works from the collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen was shown in Northern Italy. But the museum’s Surrealist collection has never been loaned on such a large scale. Each year, around 400 artworks from the collection travel to exhibitions all around the world. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, in turn, borrows important works of art from other museums for its exhibitions.
Surrealism in the Cobra Museum
Those who want to see the Surrealists before they go on tour can visit the Cobra Museum in Amstelveen from 1 May to 30 August 2020, where they will be exhibited under the title This is Surrealism.
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). View the website.