The Poetry of Things. Surrealist Vision and the Art of the South Seas

from: 25.11.2005 to: 23.04.2006

An exhibition of the Ethnological Museum, supported by the Neue Nationalgalerie

Artists such as the French painter Paul Gauguin or the German Brücke-members Emil Nolde and Max Pechstein are widely known for their attraction to the South Seas. Less well-known, however, is the affinity which the Surrealists felt for the art of the Pacific Islands. They regarded items from the South Seas as objects of poetic beauty, innately able to steer the eye away from mere form to a hidden, alternative reality internal to the viewer. With this property, the art of the South Seas incorporated that which the Surrealist expected from art. Art was not to reproduce physical appearances but to turn towards 'inner archetypes', as explained by André Breton, spokesman of literary Surrealism in France, in an article written in 1928.

The focus of this exhibition is on the singular way in which the Surrealists saw the art of the South Seas, especially as expressed in the writings of André Breton. For the first time, the Ethnological Museum presents selected works of Surrealist art from the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) alongside objects from the South Seas. These paintings illuminate another central aspect of the Surrealist vision: they not only represent a manifestation of the Surrealists' desire to picture the unconscious but also their preoccupation with the world views of a variety of extra-European societies. By posing the question about the extent to which the Western view of 'foreign' cultures and their objects is guided by little more than its own yearnings, this exhibition aims to direct the gaze towards the blind spots in the Surrealist vision.

Organizer:

Ethnologisches Museum

Nationalgalerie