Boijmans Surrealists at New Zealand's most popular museum: Icons that always astonish
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Boijmans Surrealists at New Zealand's most popular museum: Icons that always astonish
‘Surrealist Art: Masterpieces from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’, Te Papa Tongarewa. Photo: Jo Moore.

WELLINGTON.- Legendary Surrealist highlights from the Rotterdam museum’s collection are being shown on the other side of the world for the first time. Visitors to the distinguished Te Papa museum in Wellington have the opportunity to encounter Boijmans masterpieces like Dalí’s Mae West Lips Sofa. This exhibition presents the largest collection of Surrealist work that has ever been seen in New Zealand.

More than 180 works by no fewer than 50 artists from the Surrealism collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen can now be seen at the Te Papa Tongarewa museum in Wellington, New Zealand. The exhibition opened on 12 June: ‘Surrealist Art: Masterpieces from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’ (in Maori: ‘He Toi Pohewa: He Toi Marupō o Muhiama o Boijmans Van Beuningen’), the largest ever exhibition of Surrealist art in New Zealand is also the first time that the Boijmans collection has been on show there. This exhibition in New Zealand’s most popular museum introduces Surrealist highlights created by artists such as Salvador Dalí, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Francis Picabia, René Magritte, Unica Zürn and Leonora Carrington.

Stretching reality

In the Te Papa galleries visitors can find out more about Dada, the anarchistic art movement which emerged during the First World War. Dada is familiar from Duchamp’s renowned urinal and is considered to be the forerunner of Surrealism. A diversity of iconic works shows how the Surrealists drew inspiration from dreams, the subconscious and the irrational, and themes such as sexuality and eroticism are touched upon as well. Visitors are transported into the world of the Surrealists and discover how they conceived a raft of memorable works by stretching reality. Compelling installations, masterly paintings and sculptures are set alongside ground-breaking film footage, photography and design that serve as the backdrop to this presentation.

There is special consideration for the work and working methods of Salvador Dalí, including his Venus of Milo with drawers (1936), an image which suggests that opening drawers affords insight into the dreams and desires of the goddess Venus. The exhibition also boasts his poetic painting Couple with Their Heads Full of Clouds (1936) and an impressive digital installation that was created on the basis of the 1938 work Impressions d’Afrique.

The work of the Belgian artist René Magritte is a fitting cadenza to the show: visitors can see themselves as the figure in his famous 1937 painting La réproduction interdite (Not to be reproduced).

Te Papa Tongarewa Museum

Te Papa Tongarewa, usually known as Te Papa, was established in 1998 as an innovative bi-cultural museum. The conjunction between Māori culture and Pākeha (New Zealanders with a non-Māori background) is pivotal. It is the country’s most popular museum and attracts about 1.5 million visitors per year. Te Papa is also the custodian of New Zealand’s national art collection, which is presented in the Toi Art gallery. Te Papa is a multidisciplinary museum that combines science, art and history, while also being the steward of an exceptional collection of Māori artefacts and taonga (treasures) from the Pacific Ocean.

Boijmans Abroad

After New Zealand the exhibition will travel to other museums around the world. From 27 November 2021 to 6 March 2022 it can be seen at the Seoul Arts Center (SAC) in South Korea under the title ‘A Surreal Shock. Masterpieces from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’. The tour then continues to Mexico City.

The collection is being shown at other museums in the Netherlands and abroad, as well as in the depot, while the museum building is undergoing refurbishment. The impressive collection encompasses more than 151,000 artefacts, with masterpieces of Western art, applied arts and design, and from 6 November 2021 will be reassembled at their new fixed abode, Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen, an iconic building designed by MVRDV which will be the world’s first publicly accessible art depot.

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