Leonor Fini’s wardrobe is one example of Surrealism’s influence on design.
SURREAL THINGS at the Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas West), to September 13. $18, srs $15, stu $10. 416-979-6648. Rating: NNN
Surreal Things, from London's Victoria & Albert Museum, dispels any nostalgia for the days of the early 20th century when it was easy for art to "shock the bourgeoisie," as the late 19th-century poets used to say. Its exhaustive exploration of Surrealism's influence on design reveals that issues of selling out and mainstream acceptance plagued the movement almost from the beginning.
The Ballets Russes performances whose evocative sets and costumes by Giorgio de Chirico, Joan Miró and André Masson open the exhibit occasioned protests by radical Surrealists.
Freudian analysis of dreams and the unconscious inspired advertising as well as artistic expression, and as early as the 40s, British ads cannibalized the work of René Magritte to sell gas.
If you don't probe the written material too closely, though, it's a fun collection of neat stuff, studded with artworks by big names like Marcel Duchamp, Magritte, Joseph Cornell, Man Ray, Max Ernst, Yves Tanguy and others. Salvador Dalí injected a much-needed shot of weirdness into the stodgy worlds of jewellery and furniture design, and his fashion collaborator Elsa Schiaparelli, whose cool Paris storefront is part of the show, made some great clothes.
Women artists, many of whom overcame "girlfriend of the artist" syndrome, played a part in Surrealism. Furniture by Meret Oppenheim and Leonor Fini poeticized domestic objects, while a sculpture by Oppenheim and paintings by Leonora Carrington and Toyen add a female perspective to the male fantasies in the section called Displaying The Body.
As the economic crisis shrinks museum endowments, the future of touring shows that don't feature famous archeological finds is in jeopardy. Surreal Things' next stop in Minneapolis has been cancelled.
So if you haven't already, check out this show during its last weeks in Toronto.