White Aphrodisiac Telephone | Salvador Dalí | Guggenheim Bilbao Museoa
Past exhibition

Surreal Things

02.29.2008 - 09.07.2008

This remarkable exhibition is the first to explore the influence of Surrealism on the world of design: theatre, interiors, fashion, film, architecture, and advertising. Showcasing approximately 250 objects drawn from public and private collections worldwide—many of which have never been exhibited before—Surreal Things emphasizes the tensions that arose from the increasing commercialization of Surrealism’s visual aesthetic.

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is an ideal venue for this exhibition given its associations with two key players of the Surrealist movement. Spain’s celebrated Surrealist artist, Salvador Dalí, whose long, colorful career is prominently featured throughout the exhibition, was one of the more controversial Surrealists. His engagement with the world of objects and commerce eventually led him to formally break with the movement. As part of the Guggenheim network, the Bilbao presentation of Surreal Things also pays homage to the legacy of Peggy Guggenheim, who assembled one of the most significant Surrealist art collections ever. Peggy debuted her collection in a sensational exhibition space designed by visionary architect Frederick Kiesler in New York in October 1942. Her Museum/gallery Art of This Century was at the heart of the city's avant-garde; and through her dedication, she played a significant role in furthering the Surrealist cause in America.

Surreal Things presents furniture, paintings, sculpture, costumes, jewellery, ceramics, textiles, photography, and film in five thematic sections: "The Ballet", "Surrealism and the Object", "The Illusory Interior", "Nature Made Strange", and "Displaying the Body". The exhibition also provides a historical framework for the movement, identifying major exhibitions and events as well as highlighting the later work of Surrealist artists and designers whose careers extended beyond the movement.

Displayed alongside paintings by René Magritte, Max Ernst, Salvador Dalí, and Yves Tanguy are some of the most extraordinary objects and environments of the 20th century, from Dalí’s Mae West Lips Sofa (1938) and Lobster Telephone (1938), to fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli’s dramatic Tear and Skeleton evening dresses (both 1938), to Meret Oppenheim’s Table with Bird’s Legs (1939).

Curator Ghislaine Wood


Salvador Dalí
White Aphrodisiac Telephone, 1936
Telephone with synthetic material
18 x 30, 5 x 12.5 cm
The Trustees of The Edward James Foundation