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Manchester Museum buys major 'Surrealist' artwork by American artist Mark Dion
The Bureau of the Centre for the Study of Surrealism and its Legacy, Mark Dion.

MANCHESTER.- Manchester Museum has successfully raised £50,000 to purchase a major artwork by renowned American artist and sculptor Mark Dion. The work, The Bureau of the Centre for the Study of Surrealism and its Legacy, is a life-sized, fictional ‘office’ full of Surrealist-inspired objects from the Museum’s collections and elsewhere, and celebrates all that is diverse, curious and distinctive about Manchester Museum’s collections.

This is the first major work by a contemporary artist acquired by Manchester Museum, and is part of the Museum’s policy of working with contemporary artists to provide exciting, fresh perspectives on its collections and attract new audiences. The acquisition has been made possible with the generous support of the Art Fund, the ACE/V&A Purchase Grant Fund and The Henry Moore Foundation.

The Bureau was first installed at Manchester Museum in 2005 and has been a major visitor attraction whilst on display. The project first came about in 2002, when Mark Dion was invited by the AHRC Research Centre for Studies of Surrealism and its Legacies (a partnership between Tate and the Universities of Manchester and Essex) to undertake an artist-in-residence project in collaboration with Manchester Museum. The residency aimed to reflect on the impact and legacy of Surrealism through the creation of a new installation at the Museum. It resulted in The Bureau, a space to “provide a fitting setting for the contemplation and study of Surrealism”, accompanied by a sell-out artist’s book published by Book Works.

For the project, Dion worked with the Museum’s staff, asking them to find objects along Surrealist lines – “which may make you smile, laugh, shake your head in shock and condemnation, or gasp…” The Bureau evokes a 1920s museum curator’s office (which invited parallels with the actual Bureau of Surrealist Research which opened briefly in Paris in 1924). It is a beautiful but playful space, packed with curiosities, which reflects on the passion for collecting objects, both natural and man made, whilst deliberately subverting the way in which museums have traditionally sought to categorise and classify the world around them. The Bureau became a home for the awkward objects, artefacts and specimens collected in a time when the Museum was less scientific in its approach – such as heads mounted on shields as hunting trophies and a mounted guinea pig with four back legs. Dion added many of his own objects to the Museum’s collections, including furniture, objects from flea markets and display cases.

Now that the acquisition has been confirmed, Manchester Museum aims to re-install the piece for long-term display from late 2017, following a programme of capital expansion which will see the Museum increase its temporary exhibition space. In the meantime, The Bureau will be available to tour to other museums and galleries around the UK in a series of short-term loans.

Dr Nick Merriman, Director of Manchester Museum, said, “I am delighted that with the generous support of the Art Fund, the ACE/V&A Purchase Fund and The Henry Moore Foundation, we have been able to acquire this wonderful work by Mark Dion. Working with international contemporary artists is a key part of the Museum’s policy of offering fresh perspectives on our collections, and this has been a very special collaboration. This acquisition ensures the long-term future of this outstanding work and I look forward to it returning to public display at the Museum in 2017. ”

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