27/10/2022
Reviews
Jelena Sofronijevic
Surrealism meets Design in The Design Museum's Objects of Desire
We take a look at The Design Museum's latest exhibition 'Objects of Desire: Surrealism and Design 1924 - Today'

‘Experience is increasingly circumscribed. It paces back and forth in a cage from which it is more and more difficult to make it emerge.’ [MANIFESTO OF SURREALISM, 1924]. 

Born from a philosophical desire to unlock that cage, Surrealist art simultaneously liberated modern design. In the Design Museum’s latest exhibition, form follows fantasy rather than function, and the rational and utilitarian are transcended to the realm of dreams and desires. But it also demonstrates, perhaps unintentionally, how sex, sexism, and restriction pervaded the fine art movement which so loudly clamoured for freedom.

The curation deftly mimics the movement – messy, non-linear, and poetically narrated. Leaning on the likes of René Magritte and Salvador Dalí, as influenced by Giorgio di Chirico and the philosophy of Sigmund Freud, surrealism here is near-exclusively white, European and male. With over one hundred years and three hundred objects, this appears to be a curatorial blind spot – one which jars even more after the Tate Modern’s in-depth exhibition of surrealism’s transnational networks.

Objects of Desire indulges in the whimsy of ‘fantasy modern’, an architectural design movement championed by poet and patron Edward James. An installation of his Monkton House, co-designed with Dalí, lingers over its infamous Mae West lips sofa, and eleven Lobster Telephones, the creature’s sexual organs placed provocatively over the mouthpiece. (A footprinted carpet, dripping with the ‘fleeting, erotic presence’ of his wife Tilly Losch after her bath, is quickly stripped for another with his dog’s paws after their divorce.)

Photographs from ‘Stranger Than Paradise’ for W Magazine, Tim Walker (2013)

Spending so much time in Monkton, we get but a moment in James’ other property of Las Pozas, in Mexico, itself inspired by Surrealist pioneer Leonora Carrington’s 1947 painting, The House Opposite. The same goes for Le Corbusier’s simpler, shapely modern architecture, and Isamu Noguchi’s avowedly ‘internationalist’ style. 

Advertisement for ‘Schiffer Prints’ featuring Salvador Dalí, Look Magazine (16 August 1949) | Nesting Table with unknown model, Frederick John Kiesler, Ben Schall (1933-1936)

With European migration, surrealism seeped into American design from the 1930s onwards. We see the image – and commercialisation – of women everywhere, their contribution still hidden in plain sight. A faceless model straddles a phallic table. The great Italian opera singer Lina Cavalieri gets shrunk down to ceramic size.

Wall Plates from the series Tema e Variazioni (Theme and Variations), Piero Fornasetti (after 1950)

In his recently remastered film with Walt Disney Studios, Salvador Dalí depicts a captivating fantasy of a woman - with a dandelion or baseball for a head, alternatively - stripped naked by the gaze of her onlookers. Disney crops up time and again, in the cartoon chairs of the Campana brothers, and Alicja Kwade’s bent broom, in homage to Goethe and the 1940 film, Fantasia.

Destino, Salvador Dalí, John Hench for Walt Disney Studios (1945-1946, 2003)

Capitalism and consumerism don’t sit so comfortably for everyone; subversion comes seated in the exhibition’s remarkable collection of chairs. A classical Greek Ionic column is melted down into a casual chaise, a tongue prodded firmly in cheek against the decay of high into popular culture. Ruth Francken’s ‘Homme (Man)’ both ‘celebrates and objectifies’ the masculine body – the first woman artist given the opportunity to invert the gaze. (Antoni Gaudí’s Casa Calvet armchair could sit comfortably alongside Dorothea Tanning’s furry-tailed antique chair, produced and reproduced at a similar time.)

Capitello (Capital) chair, Studio65 (1981)

Save for Eileen Agar, one of few women shown at the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition, there’s little space for women artists in this telling of history. Their agency is strictly confined to the realms of the body – the crimson red rooms showing sex, death, and fashion. Stuffed so, these spaces ooze out the works of the exhibition’s only female and queer artists, including Claude Cahun’s photographic self-portraits on gender performativity.

Indeed, Objects of Desire freezes the movement in time, confining its artists to a strict binary of being either a classic originator or contemporary responder. But in the closing space devoted to Liberated Form and Mythical Thinking, we catch glimpses of the non-European origins - and future - of the movement. 

Studio photographs show how artists collected Indigenous and ethnographic objects. Challenging the primacy of European rational thought, they sought alternatives in non-Western design. But in seeking such ‘mythical’ inspiration beyond ‘visible reality’, they also reproduced stereotypes about these communities and peoples. 

Max Ernst with his ethnographic collection, Hermann Landshoff (1942)

Lip service is paid to the controversial, and colonial, connotations of such collections; ‘Sadly, the origin of these works went largely unacknowledged and now this imagined affinity often seems misplaced,’ one caption apologetically reads. But this paints this diverse set with too broad a brush. Modern eyes might see Ernst as ‘uncomfortably imperialist’. But hidden in a collage in the previous room, a similar photograph of Leonor Fini in her French studio shows no such arrogant relationship with her surroundings.

But better, Objects of Desire hints at how this self-described European movement has also been appropriated by colonised and marginalised peoples as a form of resistance. Take Yasmina Atta’s Afrosurrealism, which draws as much from Nigerian Hausa architecture and the mythology of Mami Wata, as the films of Diop Mambéty and Sembène, and Gundam Girls armour of Japanese anime.

It’s still limited – fashion is ultimately a stereotypically feminine creative space – but a glance that encourages us to go deeper into this fascinating, and contradictory, movement. 

Objects of Desire: Surrealism and Design 1924 – Today is on view at the Design Museum until 19 February 2022. 

Don’t forget to collect your Yamos on the gowithYamo app when you visit!

Thanks for reading
Collect your 5 yamos below
REDEEM YAMOS
27/10/2022
Reviews
Jelena Sofronijevic
Surrealism meets Design in The Design Museum's Objects of Desire
We take a look at The Design Museum's latest exhibition 'Objects of Desire: Surrealism and Design 1924 - Today'

‘Experience is increasingly circumscribed. It paces back and forth in a cage from which it is more and more difficult to make it emerge.’ [MANIFESTO OF SURREALISM, 1924]. 

Born from a philosophical desire to unlock that cage, Surrealist art simultaneously liberated modern design. In the Design Museum’s latest exhibition, form follows fantasy rather than function, and the rational and utilitarian are transcended to the realm of dreams and desires. But it also demonstrates, perhaps unintentionally, how sex, sexism, and restriction pervaded the fine art movement which so loudly clamoured for freedom.

The curation deftly mimics the movement – messy, non-linear, and poetically narrated. Leaning on the likes of René Magritte and Salvador Dalí, as influenced by Giorgio di Chirico and the philosophy of Sigmund Freud, surrealism here is near-exclusively white, European and male. With over one hundred years and three hundred objects, this appears to be a curatorial blind spot – one which jars even more after the Tate Modern’s in-depth exhibition of surrealism’s transnational networks.

Objects of Desire indulges in the whimsy of ‘fantasy modern’, an architectural design movement championed by poet and patron Edward James. An installation of his Monkton House, co-designed with Dalí, lingers over its infamous Mae West lips sofa, and eleven Lobster Telephones, the creature’s sexual organs placed provocatively over the mouthpiece. (A footprinted carpet, dripping with the ‘fleeting, erotic presence’ of his wife Tilly Losch after her bath, is quickly stripped for another with his dog’s paws after their divorce.)

Photographs from ‘Stranger Than Paradise’ for W Magazine, Tim Walker (2013)

Spending so much time in Monkton, we get but a moment in James’ other property of Las Pozas, in Mexico, itself inspired by Surrealist pioneer Leonora Carrington’s 1947 painting, The House Opposite. The same goes for Le Corbusier’s simpler, shapely modern architecture, and Isamu Noguchi’s avowedly ‘internationalist’ style. 

Advertisement for ‘Schiffer Prints’ featuring Salvador Dalí, Look Magazine (16 August 1949) | Nesting Table with unknown model, Frederick John Kiesler, Ben Schall (1933-1936)

With European migration, surrealism seeped into American design from the 1930s onwards. We see the image – and commercialisation – of women everywhere, their contribution still hidden in plain sight. A faceless model straddles a phallic table. The great Italian opera singer Lina Cavalieri gets shrunk down to ceramic size.

Wall Plates from the series Tema e Variazioni (Theme and Variations), Piero Fornasetti (after 1950)

In his recently remastered film with Walt Disney Studios, Salvador Dalí depicts a captivating fantasy of a woman - with a dandelion or baseball for a head, alternatively - stripped naked by the gaze of her onlookers. Disney crops up time and again, in the cartoon chairs of the Campana brothers, and Alicja Kwade’s bent broom, in homage to Goethe and the 1940 film, Fantasia.

Destino, Salvador Dalí, John Hench for Walt Disney Studios (1945-1946, 2003)

Capitalism and consumerism don’t sit so comfortably for everyone; subversion comes seated in the exhibition’s remarkable collection of chairs. A classical Greek Ionic column is melted down into a casual chaise, a tongue prodded firmly in cheek against the decay of high into popular culture. Ruth Francken’s ‘Homme (Man)’ both ‘celebrates and objectifies’ the masculine body – the first woman artist given the opportunity to invert the gaze. (Antoni Gaudí’s Casa Calvet armchair could sit comfortably alongside Dorothea Tanning’s furry-tailed antique chair, produced and reproduced at a similar time.)

Capitello (Capital) chair, Studio65 (1981)

Save for Eileen Agar, one of few women shown at the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition, there’s little space for women artists in this telling of history. Their agency is strictly confined to the realms of the body – the crimson red rooms showing sex, death, and fashion. Stuffed so, these spaces ooze out the works of the exhibition’s only female and queer artists, including Claude Cahun’s photographic self-portraits on gender performativity.

Indeed, Objects of Desire freezes the movement in time, confining its artists to a strict binary of being either a classic originator or contemporary responder. But in the closing space devoted to Liberated Form and Mythical Thinking, we catch glimpses of the non-European origins - and future - of the movement. 

Studio photographs show how artists collected Indigenous and ethnographic objects. Challenging the primacy of European rational thought, they sought alternatives in non-Western design. But in seeking such ‘mythical’ inspiration beyond ‘visible reality’, they also reproduced stereotypes about these communities and peoples. 

Max Ernst with his ethnographic collection, Hermann Landshoff (1942)

Lip service is paid to the controversial, and colonial, connotations of such collections; ‘Sadly, the origin of these works went largely unacknowledged and now this imagined affinity often seems misplaced,’ one caption apologetically reads. But this paints this diverse set with too broad a brush. Modern eyes might see Ernst as ‘uncomfortably imperialist’. But hidden in a collage in the previous room, a similar photograph of Leonor Fini in her French studio shows no such arrogant relationship with her surroundings.

But better, Objects of Desire hints at how this self-described European movement has also been appropriated by colonised and marginalised peoples as a form of resistance. Take Yasmina Atta’s Afrosurrealism, which draws as much from Nigerian Hausa architecture and the mythology of Mami Wata, as the films of Diop Mambéty and Sembène, and Gundam Girls armour of Japanese anime.

It’s still limited – fashion is ultimately a stereotypically feminine creative space – but a glance that encourages us to go deeper into this fascinating, and contradictory, movement. 

Objects of Desire: Surrealism and Design 1924 – Today is on view at the Design Museum until 19 February 2022. 

Don’t forget to collect your Yamos on the gowithYamo app when you visit!

Thanks for reading
Collect your 5 yamos below
REDEEM YAMOS
27/10/2022
Reviews
Jelena Sofronijevic
Surrealism meets Design in The Design Museum's Objects of Desire
We take a look at The Design Museum's latest exhibition 'Objects of Desire: Surrealism and Design 1924 - Today'

‘Experience is increasingly circumscribed. It paces back and forth in a cage from which it is more and more difficult to make it emerge.’ [MANIFESTO OF SURREALISM, 1924]. 

Born from a philosophical desire to unlock that cage, Surrealist art simultaneously liberated modern design. In the Design Museum’s latest exhibition, form follows fantasy rather than function, and the rational and utilitarian are transcended to the realm of dreams and desires. But it also demonstrates, perhaps unintentionally, how sex, sexism, and restriction pervaded the fine art movement which so loudly clamoured for freedom.

The curation deftly mimics the movement – messy, non-linear, and poetically narrated. Leaning on the likes of René Magritte and Salvador Dalí, as influenced by Giorgio di Chirico and the philosophy of Sigmund Freud, surrealism here is near-exclusively white, European and male. With over one hundred years and three hundred objects, this appears to be a curatorial blind spot – one which jars even more after the Tate Modern’s in-depth exhibition of surrealism’s transnational networks.

Objects of Desire indulges in the whimsy of ‘fantasy modern’, an architectural design movement championed by poet and patron Edward James. An installation of his Monkton House, co-designed with Dalí, lingers over its infamous Mae West lips sofa, and eleven Lobster Telephones, the creature’s sexual organs placed provocatively over the mouthpiece. (A footprinted carpet, dripping with the ‘fleeting, erotic presence’ of his wife Tilly Losch after her bath, is quickly stripped for another with his dog’s paws after their divorce.)

Photographs from ‘Stranger Than Paradise’ for W Magazine, Tim Walker (2013)

Spending so much time in Monkton, we get but a moment in James’ other property of Las Pozas, in Mexico, itself inspired by Surrealist pioneer Leonora Carrington’s 1947 painting, The House Opposite. The same goes for Le Corbusier’s simpler, shapely modern architecture, and Isamu Noguchi’s avowedly ‘internationalist’ style. 

Advertisement for ‘Schiffer Prints’ featuring Salvador Dalí, Look Magazine (16 August 1949) | Nesting Table with unknown model, Frederick John Kiesler, Ben Schall (1933-1936)

With European migration, surrealism seeped into American design from the 1930s onwards. We see the image – and commercialisation – of women everywhere, their contribution still hidden in plain sight. A faceless model straddles a phallic table. The great Italian opera singer Lina Cavalieri gets shrunk down to ceramic size.

Wall Plates from the series Tema e Variazioni (Theme and Variations), Piero Fornasetti (after 1950)

In his recently remastered film with Walt Disney Studios, Salvador Dalí depicts a captivating fantasy of a woman - with a dandelion or baseball for a head, alternatively - stripped naked by the gaze of her onlookers. Disney crops up time and again, in the cartoon chairs of the Campana brothers, and Alicja Kwade’s bent broom, in homage to Goethe and the 1940 film, Fantasia.

Destino, Salvador Dalí, John Hench for Walt Disney Studios (1945-1946, 2003)

Capitalism and consumerism don’t sit so comfortably for everyone; subversion comes seated in the exhibition’s remarkable collection of chairs. A classical Greek Ionic column is melted down into a casual chaise, a tongue prodded firmly in cheek against the decay of high into popular culture. Ruth Francken’s ‘Homme (Man)’ both ‘celebrates and objectifies’ the masculine body – the first woman artist given the opportunity to invert the gaze. (Antoni Gaudí’s Casa Calvet armchair could sit comfortably alongside Dorothea Tanning’s furry-tailed antique chair, produced and reproduced at a similar time.)

Capitello (Capital) chair, Studio65 (1981)

Save for Eileen Agar, one of few women shown at the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition, there’s little space for women artists in this telling of history. Their agency is strictly confined to the realms of the body – the crimson red rooms showing sex, death, and fashion. Stuffed so, these spaces ooze out the works of the exhibition’s only female and queer artists, including Claude Cahun’s photographic self-portraits on gender performativity.

Indeed, Objects of Desire freezes the movement in time, confining its artists to a strict binary of being either a classic originator or contemporary responder. But in the closing space devoted to Liberated Form and Mythical Thinking, we catch glimpses of the non-European origins - and future - of the movement. 

Studio photographs show how artists collected Indigenous and ethnographic objects. Challenging the primacy of European rational thought, they sought alternatives in non-Western design. But in seeking such ‘mythical’ inspiration beyond ‘visible reality’, they also reproduced stereotypes about these communities and peoples. 

Max Ernst with his ethnographic collection, Hermann Landshoff (1942)

Lip service is paid to the controversial, and colonial, connotations of such collections; ‘Sadly, the origin of these works went largely unacknowledged and now this imagined affinity often seems misplaced,’ one caption apologetically reads. But this paints this diverse set with too broad a brush. Modern eyes might see Ernst as ‘uncomfortably imperialist’. But hidden in a collage in the previous room, a similar photograph of Leonor Fini in her French studio shows no such arrogant relationship with her surroundings.

But better, Objects of Desire hints at how this self-described European movement has also been appropriated by colonised and marginalised peoples as a form of resistance. Take Yasmina Atta’s Afrosurrealism, which draws as much from Nigerian Hausa architecture and the mythology of Mami Wata, as the films of Diop Mambéty and Sembène, and Gundam Girls armour of Japanese anime.

It’s still limited – fashion is ultimately a stereotypically feminine creative space – but a glance that encourages us to go deeper into this fascinating, and contradictory, movement. 

Objects of Desire: Surrealism and Design 1924 – Today is on view at the Design Museum until 19 February 2022. 

Don’t forget to collect your Yamos on the gowithYamo app when you visit!

Thanks for reading
Collect your 5 yamos below
REDEEM YAMOS
27/10/2022
Reviews
Jelena Sofronijevic
Surrealism meets Design in The Design Museum's Objects of Desire
We take a look at The Design Museum's latest exhibition 'Objects of Desire: Surrealism and Design 1924 - Today'

‘Experience is increasingly circumscribed. It paces back and forth in a cage from which it is more and more difficult to make it emerge.’ [MANIFESTO OF SURREALISM, 1924]. 

Born from a philosophical desire to unlock that cage, Surrealist art simultaneously liberated modern design. In the Design Museum’s latest exhibition, form follows fantasy rather than function, and the rational and utilitarian are transcended to the realm of dreams and desires. But it also demonstrates, perhaps unintentionally, how sex, sexism, and restriction pervaded the fine art movement which so loudly clamoured for freedom.

The curation deftly mimics the movement – messy, non-linear, and poetically narrated. Leaning on the likes of René Magritte and Salvador Dalí, as influenced by Giorgio di Chirico and the philosophy of Sigmund Freud, surrealism here is near-exclusively white, European and male. With over one hundred years and three hundred objects, this appears to be a curatorial blind spot – one which jars even more after the Tate Modern’s in-depth exhibition of surrealism’s transnational networks.

Objects of Desire indulges in the whimsy of ‘fantasy modern’, an architectural design movement championed by poet and patron Edward James. An installation of his Monkton House, co-designed with Dalí, lingers over its infamous Mae West lips sofa, and eleven Lobster Telephones, the creature’s sexual organs placed provocatively over the mouthpiece. (A footprinted carpet, dripping with the ‘fleeting, erotic presence’ of his wife Tilly Losch after her bath, is quickly stripped for another with his dog’s paws after their divorce.)

Photographs from ‘Stranger Than Paradise’ for W Magazine, Tim Walker (2013)

Spending so much time in Monkton, we get but a moment in James’ other property of Las Pozas, in Mexico, itself inspired by Surrealist pioneer Leonora Carrington’s 1947 painting, The House Opposite. The same goes for Le Corbusier’s simpler, shapely modern architecture, and Isamu Noguchi’s avowedly ‘internationalist’ style. 

Advertisement for ‘Schiffer Prints’ featuring Salvador Dalí, Look Magazine (16 August 1949) | Nesting Table with unknown model, Frederick John Kiesler, Ben Schall (1933-1936)

With European migration, surrealism seeped into American design from the 1930s onwards. We see the image – and commercialisation – of women everywhere, their contribution still hidden in plain sight. A faceless model straddles a phallic table. The great Italian opera singer Lina Cavalieri gets shrunk down to ceramic size.

Wall Plates from the series Tema e Variazioni (Theme and Variations), Piero Fornasetti (after 1950)

In his recently remastered film with Walt Disney Studios, Salvador Dalí depicts a captivating fantasy of a woman - with a dandelion or baseball for a head, alternatively - stripped naked by the gaze of her onlookers. Disney crops up time and again, in the cartoon chairs of the Campana brothers, and Alicja Kwade’s bent broom, in homage to Goethe and the 1940 film, Fantasia.

Destino, Salvador Dalí, John Hench for Walt Disney Studios (1945-1946, 2003)

Capitalism and consumerism don’t sit so comfortably for everyone; subversion comes seated in the exhibition’s remarkable collection of chairs. A classical Greek Ionic column is melted down into a casual chaise, a tongue prodded firmly in cheek against the decay of high into popular culture. Ruth Francken’s ‘Homme (Man)’ both ‘celebrates and objectifies’ the masculine body – the first woman artist given the opportunity to invert the gaze. (Antoni Gaudí’s Casa Calvet armchair could sit comfortably alongside Dorothea Tanning’s furry-tailed antique chair, produced and reproduced at a similar time.)

Capitello (Capital) chair, Studio65 (1981)

Save for Eileen Agar, one of few women shown at the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition, there’s little space for women artists in this telling of history. Their agency is strictly confined to the realms of the body – the crimson red rooms showing sex, death, and fashion. Stuffed so, these spaces ooze out the works of the exhibition’s only female and queer artists, including Claude Cahun’s photographic self-portraits on gender performativity.

Indeed, Objects of Desire freezes the movement in time, confining its artists to a strict binary of being either a classic originator or contemporary responder. But in the closing space devoted to Liberated Form and Mythical Thinking, we catch glimpses of the non-European origins - and future - of the movement. 

Studio photographs show how artists collected Indigenous and ethnographic objects. Challenging the primacy of European rational thought, they sought alternatives in non-Western design. But in seeking such ‘mythical’ inspiration beyond ‘visible reality’, they also reproduced stereotypes about these communities and peoples. 

Max Ernst with his ethnographic collection, Hermann Landshoff (1942)

Lip service is paid to the controversial, and colonial, connotations of such collections; ‘Sadly, the origin of these works went largely unacknowledged and now this imagined affinity often seems misplaced,’ one caption apologetically reads. But this paints this diverse set with too broad a brush. Modern eyes might see Ernst as ‘uncomfortably imperialist’. But hidden in a collage in the previous room, a similar photograph of Leonor Fini in her French studio shows no such arrogant relationship with her surroundings.

But better, Objects of Desire hints at how this self-described European movement has also been appropriated by colonised and marginalised peoples as a form of resistance. Take Yasmina Atta’s Afrosurrealism, which draws as much from Nigerian Hausa architecture and the mythology of Mami Wata, as the films of Diop Mambéty and Sembène, and Gundam Girls armour of Japanese anime.

It’s still limited – fashion is ultimately a stereotypically feminine creative space – but a glance that encourages us to go deeper into this fascinating, and contradictory, movement. 

Objects of Desire: Surrealism and Design 1924 – Today is on view at the Design Museum until 19 February 2022. 

Don’t forget to collect your Yamos on the gowithYamo app when you visit!

Thanks for reading
Collect your 5 yamos below
REDEEM YAMOS
27/10/2022
Reviews
Jelena Sofronijevic
Surrealism meets Design in The Design Museum's Objects of Desire
We take a look at The Design Museum's latest exhibition 'Objects of Desire: Surrealism and Design 1924 - Today'

‘Experience is increasingly circumscribed. It paces back and forth in a cage from which it is more and more difficult to make it emerge.’ [MANIFESTO OF SURREALISM, 1924]. 

Born from a philosophical desire to unlock that cage, Surrealist art simultaneously liberated modern design. In the Design Museum’s latest exhibition, form follows fantasy rather than function, and the rational and utilitarian are transcended to the realm of dreams and desires. But it also demonstrates, perhaps unintentionally, how sex, sexism, and restriction pervaded the fine art movement which so loudly clamoured for freedom.

The curation deftly mimics the movement – messy, non-linear, and poetically narrated. Leaning on the likes of René Magritte and Salvador Dalí, as influenced by Giorgio di Chirico and the philosophy of Sigmund Freud, surrealism here is near-exclusively white, European and male. With over one hundred years and three hundred objects, this appears to be a curatorial blind spot – one which jars even more after the Tate Modern’s in-depth exhibition of surrealism’s transnational networks.

Objects of Desire indulges in the whimsy of ‘fantasy modern’, an architectural design movement championed by poet and patron Edward James. An installation of his Monkton House, co-designed with Dalí, lingers over its infamous Mae West lips sofa, and eleven Lobster Telephones, the creature’s sexual organs placed provocatively over the mouthpiece. (A footprinted carpet, dripping with the ‘fleeting, erotic presence’ of his wife Tilly Losch after her bath, is quickly stripped for another with his dog’s paws after their divorce.)

Photographs from ‘Stranger Than Paradise’ for W Magazine, Tim Walker (2013)

Spending so much time in Monkton, we get but a moment in James’ other property of Las Pozas, in Mexico, itself inspired by Surrealist pioneer Leonora Carrington’s 1947 painting, The House Opposite. The same goes for Le Corbusier’s simpler, shapely modern architecture, and Isamu Noguchi’s avowedly ‘internationalist’ style. 

Advertisement for ‘Schiffer Prints’ featuring Salvador Dalí, Look Magazine (16 August 1949) | Nesting Table with unknown model, Frederick John Kiesler, Ben Schall (1933-1936)

With European migration, surrealism seeped into American design from the 1930s onwards. We see the image – and commercialisation – of women everywhere, their contribution still hidden in plain sight. A faceless model straddles a phallic table. The great Italian opera singer Lina Cavalieri gets shrunk down to ceramic size.

Wall Plates from the series Tema e Variazioni (Theme and Variations), Piero Fornasetti (after 1950)

In his recently remastered film with Walt Disney Studios, Salvador Dalí depicts a captivating fantasy of a woman - with a dandelion or baseball for a head, alternatively - stripped naked by the gaze of her onlookers. Disney crops up time and again, in the cartoon chairs of the Campana brothers, and Alicja Kwade’s bent broom, in homage to Goethe and the 1940 film, Fantasia.

Destino, Salvador Dalí, John Hench for Walt Disney Studios (1945-1946, 2003)

Capitalism and consumerism don’t sit so comfortably for everyone; subversion comes seated in the exhibition’s remarkable collection of chairs. A classical Greek Ionic column is melted down into a casual chaise, a tongue prodded firmly in cheek against the decay of high into popular culture. Ruth Francken’s ‘Homme (Man)’ both ‘celebrates and objectifies’ the masculine body – the first woman artist given the opportunity to invert the gaze. (Antoni Gaudí’s Casa Calvet armchair could sit comfortably alongside Dorothea Tanning’s furry-tailed antique chair, produced and reproduced at a similar time.)

Capitello (Capital) chair, Studio65 (1981)

Save for Eileen Agar, one of few women shown at the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition, there’s little space for women artists in this telling of history. Their agency is strictly confined to the realms of the body – the crimson red rooms showing sex, death, and fashion. Stuffed so, these spaces ooze out the works of the exhibition’s only female and queer artists, including Claude Cahun’s photographic self-portraits on gender performativity.

Indeed, Objects of Desire freezes the movement in time, confining its artists to a strict binary of being either a classic originator or contemporary responder. But in the closing space devoted to Liberated Form and Mythical Thinking, we catch glimpses of the non-European origins - and future - of the movement. 

Studio photographs show how artists collected Indigenous and ethnographic objects. Challenging the primacy of European rational thought, they sought alternatives in non-Western design. But in seeking such ‘mythical’ inspiration beyond ‘visible reality’, they also reproduced stereotypes about these communities and peoples. 

Max Ernst with his ethnographic collection, Hermann Landshoff (1942)

Lip service is paid to the controversial, and colonial, connotations of such collections; ‘Sadly, the origin of these works went largely unacknowledged and now this imagined affinity often seems misplaced,’ one caption apologetically reads. But this paints this diverse set with too broad a brush. Modern eyes might see Ernst as ‘uncomfortably imperialist’. But hidden in a collage in the previous room, a similar photograph of Leonor Fini in her French studio shows no such arrogant relationship with her surroundings.

But better, Objects of Desire hints at how this self-described European movement has also been appropriated by colonised and marginalised peoples as a form of resistance. Take Yasmina Atta’s Afrosurrealism, which draws as much from Nigerian Hausa architecture and the mythology of Mami Wata, as the films of Diop Mambéty and Sembène, and Gundam Girls armour of Japanese anime.

It’s still limited – fashion is ultimately a stereotypically feminine creative space – but a glance that encourages us to go deeper into this fascinating, and contradictory, movement. 

Objects of Desire: Surrealism and Design 1924 – Today is on view at the Design Museum until 19 February 2022. 

Don’t forget to collect your Yamos on the gowithYamo app when you visit!

Thanks for reading
Collect your 5 yamos below
REDEEM YAMOS
27/10/2022
Reviews
Jelena Sofronijevic
Surrealism meets Design in The Design Museum's Objects of Desire

‘Experience is increasingly circumscribed. It paces back and forth in a cage from which it is more and more difficult to make it emerge.’ [MANIFESTO OF SURREALISM, 1924]. 

Born from a philosophical desire to unlock that cage, Surrealist art simultaneously liberated modern design. In the Design Museum’s latest exhibition, form follows fantasy rather than function, and the rational and utilitarian are transcended to the realm of dreams and desires. But it also demonstrates, perhaps unintentionally, how sex, sexism, and restriction pervaded the fine art movement which so loudly clamoured for freedom.

The curation deftly mimics the movement – messy, non-linear, and poetically narrated. Leaning on the likes of René Magritte and Salvador Dalí, as influenced by Giorgio di Chirico and the philosophy of Sigmund Freud, surrealism here is near-exclusively white, European and male. With over one hundred years and three hundred objects, this appears to be a curatorial blind spot – one which jars even more after the Tate Modern’s in-depth exhibition of surrealism’s transnational networks.

Objects of Desire indulges in the whimsy of ‘fantasy modern’, an architectural design movement championed by poet and patron Edward James. An installation of his Monkton House, co-designed with Dalí, lingers over its infamous Mae West lips sofa, and eleven Lobster Telephones, the creature’s sexual organs placed provocatively over the mouthpiece. (A footprinted carpet, dripping with the ‘fleeting, erotic presence’ of his wife Tilly Losch after her bath, is quickly stripped for another with his dog’s paws after their divorce.)

Photographs from ‘Stranger Than Paradise’ for W Magazine, Tim Walker (2013)

Spending so much time in Monkton, we get but a moment in James’ other property of Las Pozas, in Mexico, itself inspired by Surrealist pioneer Leonora Carrington’s 1947 painting, The House Opposite. The same goes for Le Corbusier’s simpler, shapely modern architecture, and Isamu Noguchi’s avowedly ‘internationalist’ style. 

Advertisement for ‘Schiffer Prints’ featuring Salvador Dalí, Look Magazine (16 August 1949) | Nesting Table with unknown model, Frederick John Kiesler, Ben Schall (1933-1936)

With European migration, surrealism seeped into American design from the 1930s onwards. We see the image – and commercialisation – of women everywhere, their contribution still hidden in plain sight. A faceless model straddles a phallic table. The great Italian opera singer Lina Cavalieri gets shrunk down to ceramic size.

Wall Plates from the series Tema e Variazioni (Theme and Variations), Piero Fornasetti (after 1950)

In his recently remastered film with Walt Disney Studios, Salvador Dalí depicts a captivating fantasy of a woman - with a dandelion or baseball for a head, alternatively - stripped naked by the gaze of her onlookers. Disney crops up time and again, in the cartoon chairs of the Campana brothers, and Alicja Kwade’s bent broom, in homage to Goethe and the 1940 film, Fantasia.

Destino, Salvador Dalí, John Hench for Walt Disney Studios (1945-1946, 2003)

Capitalism and consumerism don’t sit so comfortably for everyone; subversion comes seated in the exhibition’s remarkable collection of chairs. A classical Greek Ionic column is melted down into a casual chaise, a tongue prodded firmly in cheek against the decay of high into popular culture. Ruth Francken’s ‘Homme (Man)’ both ‘celebrates and objectifies’ the masculine body – the first woman artist given the opportunity to invert the gaze. (Antoni Gaudí’s Casa Calvet armchair could sit comfortably alongside Dorothea Tanning’s furry-tailed antique chair, produced and reproduced at a similar time.)

Capitello (Capital) chair, Studio65 (1981)

Save for Eileen Agar, one of few women shown at the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition, there’s little space for women artists in this telling of history. Their agency is strictly confined to the realms of the body – the crimson red rooms showing sex, death, and fashion. Stuffed so, these spaces ooze out the works of the exhibition’s only female and queer artists, including Claude Cahun’s photographic self-portraits on gender performativity.

Indeed, Objects of Desire freezes the movement in time, confining its artists to a strict binary of being either a classic originator or contemporary responder. But in the closing space devoted to Liberated Form and Mythical Thinking, we catch glimpses of the non-European origins - and future - of the movement. 

Studio photographs show how artists collected Indigenous and ethnographic objects. Challenging the primacy of European rational thought, they sought alternatives in non-Western design. But in seeking such ‘mythical’ inspiration beyond ‘visible reality’, they also reproduced stereotypes about these communities and peoples. 

Max Ernst with his ethnographic collection, Hermann Landshoff (1942)

Lip service is paid to the controversial, and colonial, connotations of such collections; ‘Sadly, the origin of these works went largely unacknowledged and now this imagined affinity often seems misplaced,’ one caption apologetically reads. But this paints this diverse set with too broad a brush. Modern eyes might see Ernst as ‘uncomfortably imperialist’. But hidden in a collage in the previous room, a similar photograph of Leonor Fini in her French studio shows no such arrogant relationship with her surroundings.

But better, Objects of Desire hints at how this self-described European movement has also been appropriated by colonised and marginalised peoples as a form of resistance. Take Yasmina Atta’s Afrosurrealism, which draws as much from Nigerian Hausa architecture and the mythology of Mami Wata, as the films of Diop Mambéty and Sembène, and Gundam Girls armour of Japanese anime.

It’s still limited – fashion is ultimately a stereotypically feminine creative space – but a glance that encourages us to go deeper into this fascinating, and contradictory, movement. 

Objects of Desire: Surrealism and Design 1924 – Today is on view at the Design Museum until 19 February 2022. 

Don’t forget to collect your Yamos on the gowithYamo app when you visit!

Thanks for reading
Collect your 5 yamos below
REDEEM YAMOS
27/10/2022
Reviews
Jelena Sofronijevic
Surrealism meets Design in The Design Museum's Objects of Desire
We take a look at The Design Museum's latest exhibition 'Objects of Desire: Surrealism and Design 1924 - Today'

‘Experience is increasingly circumscribed. It paces back and forth in a cage from which it is more and more difficult to make it emerge.’ [MANIFESTO OF SURREALISM, 1924]. 

Born from a philosophical desire to unlock that cage, Surrealist art simultaneously liberated modern design. In the Design Museum’s latest exhibition, form follows fantasy rather than function, and the rational and utilitarian are transcended to the realm of dreams and desires. But it also demonstrates, perhaps unintentionally, how sex, sexism, and restriction pervaded the fine art movement which so loudly clamoured for freedom.

The curation deftly mimics the movement – messy, non-linear, and poetically narrated. Leaning on the likes of René Magritte and Salvador Dalí, as influenced by Giorgio di Chirico and the philosophy of Sigmund Freud, surrealism here is near-exclusively white, European and male. With over one hundred years and three hundred objects, this appears to be a curatorial blind spot – one which jars even more after the Tate Modern’s in-depth exhibition of surrealism’s transnational networks.

Objects of Desire indulges in the whimsy of ‘fantasy modern’, an architectural design movement championed by poet and patron Edward James. An installation of his Monkton House, co-designed with Dalí, lingers over its infamous Mae West lips sofa, and eleven Lobster Telephones, the creature’s sexual organs placed provocatively over the mouthpiece. (A footprinted carpet, dripping with the ‘fleeting, erotic presence’ of his wife Tilly Losch after her bath, is quickly stripped for another with his dog’s paws after their divorce.)

Photographs from ‘Stranger Than Paradise’ for W Magazine, Tim Walker (2013)

Spending so much time in Monkton, we get but a moment in James’ other property of Las Pozas, in Mexico, itself inspired by Surrealist pioneer Leonora Carrington’s 1947 painting, The House Opposite. The same goes for Le Corbusier’s simpler, shapely modern architecture, and Isamu Noguchi’s avowedly ‘internationalist’ style. 

Advertisement for ‘Schiffer Prints’ featuring Salvador Dalí, Look Magazine (16 August 1949) | Nesting Table with unknown model, Frederick John Kiesler, Ben Schall (1933-1936)

With European migration, surrealism seeped into American design from the 1930s onwards. We see the image – and commercialisation – of women everywhere, their contribution still hidden in plain sight. A faceless model straddles a phallic table. The great Italian opera singer Lina Cavalieri gets shrunk down to ceramic size.

Wall Plates from the series Tema e Variazioni (Theme and Variations), Piero Fornasetti (after 1950)

In his recently remastered film with Walt Disney Studios, Salvador Dalí depicts a captivating fantasy of a woman - with a dandelion or baseball for a head, alternatively - stripped naked by the gaze of her onlookers. Disney crops up time and again, in the cartoon chairs of the Campana brothers, and Alicja Kwade’s bent broom, in homage to Goethe and the 1940 film, Fantasia.

Destino, Salvador Dalí, John Hench for Walt Disney Studios (1945-1946, 2003)

Capitalism and consumerism don’t sit so comfortably for everyone; subversion comes seated in the exhibition’s remarkable collection of chairs. A classical Greek Ionic column is melted down into a casual chaise, a tongue prodded firmly in cheek against the decay of high into popular culture. Ruth Francken’s ‘Homme (Man)’ both ‘celebrates and objectifies’ the masculine body – the first woman artist given the opportunity to invert the gaze. (Antoni Gaudí’s Casa Calvet armchair could sit comfortably alongside Dorothea Tanning’s furry-tailed antique chair, produced and reproduced at a similar time.)

Capitello (Capital) chair, Studio65 (1981)

Save for Eileen Agar, one of few women shown at the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition, there’s little space for women artists in this telling of history. Their agency is strictly confined to the realms of the body – the crimson red rooms showing sex, death, and fashion. Stuffed so, these spaces ooze out the works of the exhibition’s only female and queer artists, including Claude Cahun’s photographic self-portraits on gender performativity.

Indeed, Objects of Desire freezes the movement in time, confining its artists to a strict binary of being either a classic originator or contemporary responder. But in the closing space devoted to Liberated Form and Mythical Thinking, we catch glimpses of the non-European origins - and future - of the movement. 

Studio photographs show how artists collected Indigenous and ethnographic objects. Challenging the primacy of European rational thought, they sought alternatives in non-Western design. But in seeking such ‘mythical’ inspiration beyond ‘visible reality’, they also reproduced stereotypes about these communities and peoples. 

Max Ernst with his ethnographic collection, Hermann Landshoff (1942)

Lip service is paid to the controversial, and colonial, connotations of such collections; ‘Sadly, the origin of these works went largely unacknowledged and now this imagined affinity often seems misplaced,’ one caption apologetically reads. But this paints this diverse set with too broad a brush. Modern eyes might see Ernst as ‘uncomfortably imperialist’. But hidden in a collage in the previous room, a similar photograph of Leonor Fini in her French studio shows no such arrogant relationship with her surroundings.

But better, Objects of Desire hints at how this self-described European movement has also been appropriated by colonised and marginalised peoples as a form of resistance. Take Yasmina Atta’s Afrosurrealism, which draws as much from Nigerian Hausa architecture and the mythology of Mami Wata, as the films of Diop Mambéty and Sembène, and Gundam Girls armour of Japanese anime.

It’s still limited – fashion is ultimately a stereotypically feminine creative space – but a glance that encourages us to go deeper into this fascinating, and contradictory, movement. 

Objects of Desire: Surrealism and Design 1924 – Today is on view at the Design Museum until 19 February 2022. 

Don’t forget to collect your Yamos on the gowithYamo app when you visit!

Thanks for reading
Collect your 5 yamos below
REDEEM YAMOS
27/10/2022
Reviews
Jelena Sofronijevic
Surrealism meets Design in The Design Museum's Objects of Desire
We take a look at The Design Museum's latest exhibition 'Objects of Desire: Surrealism and Design 1924 - Today'

‘Experience is increasingly circumscribed. It paces back and forth in a cage from which it is more and more difficult to make it emerge.’ [MANIFESTO OF SURREALISM, 1924]. 

Born from a philosophical desire to unlock that cage, Surrealist art simultaneously liberated modern design. In the Design Museum’s latest exhibition, form follows fantasy rather than function, and the rational and utilitarian are transcended to the realm of dreams and desires. But it also demonstrates, perhaps unintentionally, how sex, sexism, and restriction pervaded the fine art movement which so loudly clamoured for freedom.

The curation deftly mimics the movement – messy, non-linear, and poetically narrated. Leaning on the likes of René Magritte and Salvador Dalí, as influenced by Giorgio di Chirico and the philosophy of Sigmund Freud, surrealism here is near-exclusively white, European and male. With over one hundred years and three hundred objects, this appears to be a curatorial blind spot – one which jars even more after the Tate Modern’s in-depth exhibition of surrealism’s transnational networks.

Objects of Desire indulges in the whimsy of ‘fantasy modern’, an architectural design movement championed by poet and patron Edward James. An installation of his Monkton House, co-designed with Dalí, lingers over its infamous Mae West lips sofa, and eleven Lobster Telephones, the creature’s sexual organs placed provocatively over the mouthpiece. (A footprinted carpet, dripping with the ‘fleeting, erotic presence’ of his wife Tilly Losch after her bath, is quickly stripped for another with his dog’s paws after their divorce.)

Photographs from ‘Stranger Than Paradise’ for W Magazine, Tim Walker (2013)

Spending so much time in Monkton, we get but a moment in James’ other property of Las Pozas, in Mexico, itself inspired by Surrealist pioneer Leonora Carrington’s 1947 painting, The House Opposite. The same goes for Le Corbusier’s simpler, shapely modern architecture, and Isamu Noguchi’s avowedly ‘internationalist’ style. 

Advertisement for ‘Schiffer Prints’ featuring Salvador Dalí, Look Magazine (16 August 1949) | Nesting Table with unknown model, Frederick John Kiesler, Ben Schall (1933-1936)

With European migration, surrealism seeped into American design from the 1930s onwards. We see the image – and commercialisation – of women everywhere, their contribution still hidden in plain sight. A faceless model straddles a phallic table. The great Italian opera singer Lina Cavalieri gets shrunk down to ceramic size.

Wall Plates from the series Tema e Variazioni (Theme and Variations), Piero Fornasetti (after 1950)

In his recently remastered film with Walt Disney Studios, Salvador Dalí depicts a captivating fantasy of a woman - with a dandelion or baseball for a head, alternatively - stripped naked by the gaze of her onlookers. Disney crops up time and again, in the cartoon chairs of the Campana brothers, and Alicja Kwade’s bent broom, in homage to Goethe and the 1940 film, Fantasia.

Destino, Salvador Dalí, John Hench for Walt Disney Studios (1945-1946, 2003)

Capitalism and consumerism don’t sit so comfortably for everyone; subversion comes seated in the exhibition’s remarkable collection of chairs. A classical Greek Ionic column is melted down into a casual chaise, a tongue prodded firmly in cheek against the decay of high into popular culture. Ruth Francken’s ‘Homme (Man)’ both ‘celebrates and objectifies’ the masculine body – the first woman artist given the opportunity to invert the gaze. (Antoni Gaudí’s Casa Calvet armchair could sit comfortably alongside Dorothea Tanning’s furry-tailed antique chair, produced and reproduced at a similar time.)

Capitello (Capital) chair, Studio65 (1981)

Save for Eileen Agar, one of few women shown at the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition, there’s little space for women artists in this telling of history. Their agency is strictly confined to the realms of the body – the crimson red rooms showing sex, death, and fashion. Stuffed so, these spaces ooze out the works of the exhibition’s only female and queer artists, including Claude Cahun’s photographic self-portraits on gender performativity.

Indeed, Objects of Desire freezes the movement in time, confining its artists to a strict binary of being either a classic originator or contemporary responder. But in the closing space devoted to Liberated Form and Mythical Thinking, we catch glimpses of the non-European origins - and future - of the movement. 

Studio photographs show how artists collected Indigenous and ethnographic objects. Challenging the primacy of European rational thought, they sought alternatives in non-Western design. But in seeking such ‘mythical’ inspiration beyond ‘visible reality’, they also reproduced stereotypes about these communities and peoples. 

Max Ernst with his ethnographic collection, Hermann Landshoff (1942)

Lip service is paid to the controversial, and colonial, connotations of such collections; ‘Sadly, the origin of these works went largely unacknowledged and now this imagined affinity often seems misplaced,’ one caption apologetically reads. But this paints this diverse set with too broad a brush. Modern eyes might see Ernst as ‘uncomfortably imperialist’. But hidden in a collage in the previous room, a similar photograph of Leonor Fini in her French studio shows no such arrogant relationship with her surroundings.

But better, Objects of Desire hints at how this self-described European movement has also been appropriated by colonised and marginalised peoples as a form of resistance. Take Yasmina Atta’s Afrosurrealism, which draws as much from Nigerian Hausa architecture and the mythology of Mami Wata, as the films of Diop Mambéty and Sembène, and Gundam Girls armour of Japanese anime.

It’s still limited – fashion is ultimately a stereotypically feminine creative space – but a glance that encourages us to go deeper into this fascinating, and contradictory, movement. 

Objects of Desire: Surrealism and Design 1924 – Today is on view at the Design Museum until 19 February 2022. 

Don’t forget to collect your Yamos on the gowithYamo app when you visit!

Thanks for reading
Collect your 5 yamos below
REDEEM YAMOS
27/10/2022
Reviews
Jelena Sofronijevic
Surrealism meets Design in The Design Museum's Objects of Desire
We take a look at The Design Museum's latest exhibition 'Objects of Desire: Surrealism and Design 1924 - Today'

‘Experience is increasingly circumscribed. It paces back and forth in a cage from which it is more and more difficult to make it emerge.’ [MANIFESTO OF SURREALISM, 1924]. 

Born from a philosophical desire to unlock that cage, Surrealist art simultaneously liberated modern design. In the Design Museum’s latest exhibition, form follows fantasy rather than function, and the rational and utilitarian are transcended to the realm of dreams and desires. But it also demonstrates, perhaps unintentionally, how sex, sexism, and restriction pervaded the fine art movement which so loudly clamoured for freedom.

The curation deftly mimics the movement – messy, non-linear, and poetically narrated. Leaning on the likes of René Magritte and Salvador Dalí, as influenced by Giorgio di Chirico and the philosophy of Sigmund Freud, surrealism here is near-exclusively white, European and male. With over one hundred years and three hundred objects, this appears to be a curatorial blind spot – one which jars even more after the Tate Modern’s in-depth exhibition of surrealism’s transnational networks.

Objects of Desire indulges in the whimsy of ‘fantasy modern’, an architectural design movement championed by poet and patron Edward James. An installation of his Monkton House, co-designed with Dalí, lingers over its infamous Mae West lips sofa, and eleven Lobster Telephones, the creature’s sexual organs placed provocatively over the mouthpiece. (A footprinted carpet, dripping with the ‘fleeting, erotic presence’ of his wife Tilly Losch after her bath, is quickly stripped for another with his dog’s paws after their divorce.)

Photographs from ‘Stranger Than Paradise’ for W Magazine, Tim Walker (2013)

Spending so much time in Monkton, we get but a moment in James’ other property of Las Pozas, in Mexico, itself inspired by Surrealist pioneer Leonora Carrington’s 1947 painting, The House Opposite. The same goes for Le Corbusier’s simpler, shapely modern architecture, and Isamu Noguchi’s avowedly ‘internationalist’ style. 

Advertisement for ‘Schiffer Prints’ featuring Salvador Dalí, Look Magazine (16 August 1949) | Nesting Table with unknown model, Frederick John Kiesler, Ben Schall (1933-1936)

With European migration, surrealism seeped into American design from the 1930s onwards. We see the image – and commercialisation – of women everywhere, their contribution still hidden in plain sight. A faceless model straddles a phallic table. The great Italian opera singer Lina Cavalieri gets shrunk down to ceramic size.

Wall Plates from the series Tema e Variazioni (Theme and Variations), Piero Fornasetti (after 1950)

In his recently remastered film with Walt Disney Studios, Salvador Dalí depicts a captivating fantasy of a woman - with a dandelion or baseball for a head, alternatively - stripped naked by the gaze of her onlookers. Disney crops up time and again, in the cartoon chairs of the Campana brothers, and Alicja Kwade’s bent broom, in homage to Goethe and the 1940 film, Fantasia.

Destino, Salvador Dalí, John Hench for Walt Disney Studios (1945-1946, 2003)

Capitalism and consumerism don’t sit so comfortably for everyone; subversion comes seated in the exhibition’s remarkable collection of chairs. A classical Greek Ionic column is melted down into a casual chaise, a tongue prodded firmly in cheek against the decay of high into popular culture. Ruth Francken’s ‘Homme (Man)’ both ‘celebrates and objectifies’ the masculine body – the first woman artist given the opportunity to invert the gaze. (Antoni Gaudí’s Casa Calvet armchair could sit comfortably alongside Dorothea Tanning’s furry-tailed antique chair, produced and reproduced at a similar time.)

Capitello (Capital) chair, Studio65 (1981)

Save for Eileen Agar, one of few women shown at the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition, there’s little space for women artists in this telling of history. Their agency is strictly confined to the realms of the body – the crimson red rooms showing sex, death, and fashion. Stuffed so, these spaces ooze out the works of the exhibition’s only female and queer artists, including Claude Cahun’s photographic self-portraits on gender performativity.

Indeed, Objects of Desire freezes the movement in time, confining its artists to a strict binary of being either a classic originator or contemporary responder. But in the closing space devoted to Liberated Form and Mythical Thinking, we catch glimpses of the non-European origins - and future - of the movement. 

Studio photographs show how artists collected Indigenous and ethnographic objects. Challenging the primacy of European rational thought, they sought alternatives in non-Western design. But in seeking such ‘mythical’ inspiration beyond ‘visible reality’, they also reproduced stereotypes about these communities and peoples. 

Max Ernst with his ethnographic collection, Hermann Landshoff (1942)

Lip service is paid to the controversial, and colonial, connotations of such collections; ‘Sadly, the origin of these works went largely unacknowledged and now this imagined affinity often seems misplaced,’ one caption apologetically reads. But this paints this diverse set with too broad a brush. Modern eyes might see Ernst as ‘uncomfortably imperialist’. But hidden in a collage in the previous room, a similar photograph of Leonor Fini in her French studio shows no such arrogant relationship with her surroundings.

But better, Objects of Desire hints at how this self-described European movement has also been appropriated by colonised and marginalised peoples as a form of resistance. Take Yasmina Atta’s Afrosurrealism, which draws as much from Nigerian Hausa architecture and the mythology of Mami Wata, as the films of Diop Mambéty and Sembène, and Gundam Girls armour of Japanese anime.

It’s still limited – fashion is ultimately a stereotypically feminine creative space – but a glance that encourages us to go deeper into this fascinating, and contradictory, movement. 

Objects of Desire: Surrealism and Design 1924 – Today is on view at the Design Museum until 19 February 2022. 

Don’t forget to collect your Yamos on the gowithYamo app when you visit!

Thanks for reading
Collect your 5 yamos below
REDEEM YAMOS
27/10/2022
Reviews
Jelena Sofronijevic
Surrealism meets Design in The Design Museum's Objects of Desire
We take a look at The Design Museum's latest exhibition 'Objects of Desire: Surrealism and Design 1924 - Today'

‘Experience is increasingly circumscribed. It paces back and forth in a cage from which it is more and more difficult to make it emerge.’ [MANIFESTO OF SURREALISM, 1924]. 

Born from a philosophical desire to unlock that cage, Surrealist art simultaneously liberated modern design. In the Design Museum’s latest exhibition, form follows fantasy rather than function, and the rational and utilitarian are transcended to the realm of dreams and desires. But it also demonstrates, perhaps unintentionally, how sex, sexism, and restriction pervaded the fine art movement which so loudly clamoured for freedom.

The curation deftly mimics the movement – messy, non-linear, and poetically narrated. Leaning on the likes of René Magritte and Salvador Dalí, as influenced by Giorgio di Chirico and the philosophy of Sigmund Freud, surrealism here is near-exclusively white, European and male. With over one hundred years and three hundred objects, this appears to be a curatorial blind spot – one which jars even more after the Tate Modern’s in-depth exhibition of surrealism’s transnational networks.

Objects of Desire indulges in the whimsy of ‘fantasy modern’, an architectural design movement championed by poet and patron Edward James. An installation of his Monkton House, co-designed with Dalí, lingers over its infamous Mae West lips sofa, and eleven Lobster Telephones, the creature’s sexual organs placed provocatively over the mouthpiece. (A footprinted carpet, dripping with the ‘fleeting, erotic presence’ of his wife Tilly Losch after her bath, is quickly stripped for another with his dog’s paws after their divorce.)

Photographs from ‘Stranger Than Paradise’ for W Magazine, Tim Walker (2013)

Spending so much time in Monkton, we get but a moment in James’ other property of Las Pozas, in Mexico, itself inspired by Surrealist pioneer Leonora Carrington’s 1947 painting, The House Opposite. The same goes for Le Corbusier’s simpler, shapely modern architecture, and Isamu Noguchi’s avowedly ‘internationalist’ style. 

Advertisement for ‘Schiffer Prints’ featuring Salvador Dalí, Look Magazine (16 August 1949) | Nesting Table with unknown model, Frederick John Kiesler, Ben Schall (1933-1936)

With European migration, surrealism seeped into American design from the 1930s onwards. We see the image – and commercialisation – of women everywhere, their contribution still hidden in plain sight. A faceless model straddles a phallic table. The great Italian opera singer Lina Cavalieri gets shrunk down to ceramic size.

Wall Plates from the series Tema e Variazioni (Theme and Variations), Piero Fornasetti (after 1950)

In his recently remastered film with Walt Disney Studios, Salvador Dalí depicts a captivating fantasy of a woman - with a dandelion or baseball for a head, alternatively - stripped naked by the gaze of her onlookers. Disney crops up time and again, in the cartoon chairs of the Campana brothers, and Alicja Kwade’s bent broom, in homage to Goethe and the 1940 film, Fantasia.

Destino, Salvador Dalí, John Hench for Walt Disney Studios (1945-1946, 2003)

Capitalism and consumerism don’t sit so comfortably for everyone; subversion comes seated in the exhibition’s remarkable collection of chairs. A classical Greek Ionic column is melted down into a casual chaise, a tongue prodded firmly in cheek against the decay of high into popular culture. Ruth Francken’s ‘Homme (Man)’ both ‘celebrates and objectifies’ the masculine body – the first woman artist given the opportunity to invert the gaze. (Antoni Gaudí’s Casa Calvet armchair could sit comfortably alongside Dorothea Tanning’s furry-tailed antique chair, produced and reproduced at a similar time.)

Capitello (Capital) chair, Studio65 (1981)

Save for Eileen Agar, one of few women shown at the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition, there’s little space for women artists in this telling of history. Their agency is strictly confined to the realms of the body – the crimson red rooms showing sex, death, and fashion. Stuffed so, these spaces ooze out the works of the exhibition’s only female and queer artists, including Claude Cahun’s photographic self-portraits on gender performativity.

Indeed, Objects of Desire freezes the movement in time, confining its artists to a strict binary of being either a classic originator or contemporary responder. But in the closing space devoted to Liberated Form and Mythical Thinking, we catch glimpses of the non-European origins - and future - of the movement. 

Studio photographs show how artists collected Indigenous and ethnographic objects. Challenging the primacy of European rational thought, they sought alternatives in non-Western design. But in seeking such ‘mythical’ inspiration beyond ‘visible reality’, they also reproduced stereotypes about these communities and peoples. 

Max Ernst with his ethnographic collection, Hermann Landshoff (1942)

Lip service is paid to the controversial, and colonial, connotations of such collections; ‘Sadly, the origin of these works went largely unacknowledged and now this imagined affinity often seems misplaced,’ one caption apologetically reads. But this paints this diverse set with too broad a brush. Modern eyes might see Ernst as ‘uncomfortably imperialist’. But hidden in a collage in the previous room, a similar photograph of Leonor Fini in her French studio shows no such arrogant relationship with her surroundings.

But better, Objects of Desire hints at how this self-described European movement has also been appropriated by colonised and marginalised peoples as a form of resistance. Take Yasmina Atta’s Afrosurrealism, which draws as much from Nigerian Hausa architecture and the mythology of Mami Wata, as the films of Diop Mambéty and Sembène, and Gundam Girls armour of Japanese anime.

It’s still limited – fashion is ultimately a stereotypically feminine creative space – but a glance that encourages us to go deeper into this fascinating, and contradictory, movement. 

Objects of Desire: Surrealism and Design 1924 – Today is on view at the Design Museum until 19 February 2022. 

Don’t forget to collect your Yamos on the gowithYamo app when you visit!

Thanks for reading
Collect your 5 yamos below
REDEEM YAMOS
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