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Triumph of Desire - Danish and International Surrealism Opens
Rita Kernn-Larsen, The Party, 1937. Museum Sønderjylland.

COPENHAGEN.- Arken Museum of Modern Art presents today Triumph of Desire - Danish and International Surrealism, on view through January 11, 2009. In the 1930s Surrealism spread like wildfire across Europe, led by Dalí, Magritte and Miró. Danish Surrealists from Wilhelm Freddie and Richard Mortensen to Heerup and Jorn were influenced by the international wave. But how was it expressed in their art? This is what ARKEN will spotlight in the autumn exhibition.

ARKEN focuses on the dialogue that emerged between the Danish and international Surrealists in the 1930s. It has been 73 years since Danish and international Surrealism was last presented together in Copenhagen.

Conceived in Paris in the 1920s and spreading across Europe in the ‘30s, Surrealism was one of the twentieth century’s most influential and spectacular movements. Danish art was swept by the Surrealists’ wild ideas, sowing the seeds of e.g. the germinating CoBrA art in the 1940s. The Danish artists soaked up inspiration. Several of them exhibited alongside the great, international artists both at home and abroad. At ARKEN this dialogue manifests itself in a large number of interesting encounters, e.g. between Dane Wilhelm Freddie’s Envoy of the Dream and Magritte’s In Memoriam Mack Sennett.

The time was heavily influenced by Freudian thought, as were the artists. The subconscious and not least the sex drive were the centre of attraction. Therefore ARKEN’s exhibition focuses on the erotic and sensual aspects in both nature and everyday objects. Salvador Dalí’s msterpiece Lobster Telephone is an example of an everyday object transformed into a fascinating creature. A sensual, crawling and alien beast. Maybe it wriggles in your hand or scratches your ear?

Wilhelm Freddie’s famous work Sex Paralysis Appeal, which was confiscated in 1936 by the police, is shown in the exhibition. A female bust with a penis on its cheek, a rope around its neck and two wineglasses hanging nonchalantly on the chest. Like Dalí he transforms everyday objects into works of art with erotic, humorous and dangerous undertones.

To create art in direct contact with the subconscious, the Surrealists employed oddball and playful working methods. Inspired by the international Surrealists, Jorn did abstract “automatic drawings” which he invited other artists to continue. In automatic drawings the artist allows his instincts to govern the pen, thus giving the subconscious free rein. Another Surrealist method was folding drawings as we know them from children’s birthday parties: One person draws, folds the paper and passes it to the next person who continues without being able to see the previous drawing. From this Surrealist game shared pictures were created with strange motifs to tempt our imagination and desire to the surface.

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