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First major retrospective dedicated to Meret Oppenheim opens at Martin-Gropius-Bau
A poster advertising the Meret Oppenheim Retrospective is on display at the Martin-Gropius-Bau museum in Berlin on August 15, 2013. The retrospective at the Martin-Gropius-Bau marks the centenary of German-born Swiss surrealist artist Meret Oppenheim's birth in Berlin on 6 October 1913, and opens from 16 August to 1 December 2013. AFP PHOTO / JOHN MACDOUGALL.

BERLIN.- Berlin is dedicating a first major retrospective to Meret Oppenheim to mark the centenary of the famous artist's birth here on 6 October 2013. Her artistic beginnings go back to Paris in 1932 where she visits regularly for five years the circle of surrealists around André Breton. There, the twenty-year-old with her rebellious and freedom-loving attitude meets like-minded people. The playful and humorous treatment of everyday materials, conveyed with artistic strategies of estrangement, combinatorics and metamorphosis in constantly new connotations, is a special feature of Oppenheim's artistic works.

This also links her to her artist friends whose company included Alberto Giacometti, Max Ernst, Francis Picabia, Leonor Fini, Dora Maar or Man Ray. The photographs in the »Érotique voilée« series (1933), in which Oppenheim posed as a nude model, are as well as her legendary »Fur Cup« the foundation of her myth. The discursive power of her surrealism could be felt in 1983 when her »Oppenheim Fountain« was inaugurated in Bern's Waisenhausplatz, a visit to which is highly recommended.

Meret Oppenheim's extremely varied oeuvre, influenced by experimentation and upheavals, metamorphoses and the "dream-like", evades an art-historical classification. The artist dispensed with uniformity or recognisability in favour of experimental joyfulness which enabled her to transcend the confines of an artistic style, a genre or a linear development.

Language, myths, games and dreams served her purpose as impetus just as literary sources and the psychoanalysis of C.G. Jung. Her emancipatory, non-conformist attitude and her critical approach to social stereotyping and allotted gender roles made her a central identification figure for following generations of women artists. "Freedom isn't given to you – you have to take it", Oppenheim summed up her position in 1975.

The exhibition will show the whole spectrum of Meret Oppenheim's oeuvre, which in its independence and diversity is still a pioneering force even today. Following Oppenheim's artistic method, who kept returning to specific motifs over long periods of time and subjected them to new treatment, the show runs a course through the ever-densifying themes in a cross-section of the artist's creative periods: coded descriptions of herself, erotic objects, dream scenes and myths, metamorphoses and mythical creatures, dialogue with nature, depictions of the invisible, game as artistic strategy, the ratio of picture and text. Starting out from her much appraised early work in the circle of the surrealists and proceeding to her less well-known poetic late work, the exhibition will show not only drawings, paintings, objects and collages, but also her writings and dream notations as well as her humorous and fantastical jewellery, dress and other designs. "Every idea is born with a form. You never know where the ideas come from: they bring their form with them; just as Athena sprang out of the head of Zeus, helmeted and armoured, thus do the ideas emerge with their apparel."

In 1982, Meret Oppenheim was honoured with the Art Prize of the City of Berlin. In the same year, she participated in documenta 7. Shortly before her death, she became a member of the Berlin Academy of the Arts. She died in Basel in 1985.

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August 17, 2013

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