Aphrodisiac Telephone, 1938, plastic and metal, 20.9 x 31.1 x 16.5 cm. Photo courtesy of AGO.
Lobster telephone? Check. Table with bird’s legs? Check. Lips sofa? Check. No—not an inventory of items from the Michael Jackson Estate Auction; these are just some pieces of artwork you can see at “Surreal Things”, the latest exhibit to open at the AGO! Finally, art you’re meant to not understand!
“Surreal Things” is a slightly tweaked version of an exhibition by the same name organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2007. Pieces such as René Magritte’s 1937 painting La reproduction interdite that could not, sadly, make the transatlantic voyage have been substituted by those unavailable for the London show, and about 180 pieces by surrealism staples Salvador Dalí, Giorgio de Chirico, Max Ernst, and Joan Miró are on display for your perception-altering pleasure.
Set pieces from Diaghilev’s controversial 1926 production of Romeo and Juliet can be seen, as well as some video performances. Around the corner are Dalí’s Aphrodisiac Jacket (1936/37), a dinner jacket covered in liqueur glasses, and Oscar Dominguez’s Wheelbarrow (1937), accompanied by a Man Ray photograph of a woman in a cocktail dress asleep in its plush red lining. The former, when first displayed, was accompanied by a bottle of crème de menthe that viewers were encouraged to consume so as to add “to the physical and deeply subjective sensation of inebriation to their experience of the object.”
Also on display are various items by Salvador Dalí, such as the lobster-telephone (actually called Aphrodisiac Telephone), which have been cleverly arranged to appear as part of a room. The iconic Apparition of a Face and Fruit Dish on a Beach (1938) is in the exhibit as well.
But keep an eye out for some of the most unexpectedly disturbing pieces in the show, such as the series of ads produced by Hans Schleger for the Shell Corporation. These are truly something to behold. In one, a man’s giant head emerges from what looks like a newspaper. There are holes where his eyes should be, and the clear blue sky is visible behind them. A massive pencil stands on the newspaper, next to the head, towering over two wanderers taking it all in. Uh, yeah…
“Surreal Things” opens at the AGO on May 9.