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Arts

Dali, Breton, Magritte: The attraction of surrealism

Their works still amuse people today, almost 100 years after surrealists like Dali and Magritte started to delve into the dream worlds of the subconscious. Now a Hamburg exhibition is showing "surreal encounters."

Hamburger Kunsthalle will be showing more than 150 masterpieces by renowned surrealist artists starting Friday, all of them big names in the art world: Andre Breton, Hans Arp, Salvador Dali, Marcel Duchamps, Max Ernst, Alberto Giacometti, Rene Magritte, Man Ray, Meret Oppenheim and Pablo Picasso.

"We want to enable surreal encounters," says curator Annabelle Görgen-Lammers.

The artworks are on loan from four of the most renowned European private collections of the 20th century, and some of the masterpieces have never before traveled. British poet Edward James and his compatriot Roland Penrose, a curator and artist, were keen patrons of surrealist artists. The other two collectors passionate about Surrealism are Gabrielle Keiller, a top golf player from Scotland, and the Berlin couple Ulla and Heiner Pietzsch. The latter are active to this  day.

René Magritte La reproduction interdite (VG Bild-Kunst)

Magritte: 'Not to be Reproduced', 1937

They all, says the museum's curator, fell for "surrealism's powers of seduction." But they all took a different approach.

Well-heeled James would commission artworks with Salvador Dali, while Penrose was more of a broker who would organize exhibitions. What fascinated all collectors, says Görgen-Lammers, was the "artists' mindset" - which "changed their view of reality."

Dreams and visions

The surrealist movement, which influenced literature, painting, film and photography, emerged in Paris after World War I, at a time when Russia saw its Communist Revolution and Sigmund Freud developed psychoanalysis in Vienna. The Surrealists' aim was to create a superior reality that went above and beyond what people see and included subconscious and dream-like elements. The works of art aimed to display visions and illustrate the surreal, while the artists acted on spontaneous feelings and moods.

Max Ernst, The joy of life (VG Bild-Kunst)

'The Joy of Life': one of Max Ernst's jungle pictures

Andre Breton even penned a Surrealist manifesto stating the artists' beliefs: "I believe in the future resolution of these two states, dream and reality, into a sort of absolute reality, of surreality, so to speak."

The Hamburg exhibition was set up in a tri-national cooperation with the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh and the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam. It's flanked by more than 400 records that give a glimpse of the art market over a period of 50 years, as well as collecting behavior and the origin of individual artworks.

 

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