The global appeal of Surrealism explored in exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

New York show, which will travel to London next year, looks at how the movement inspired artists around the world long into the 20th century

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Koga Harue's Umi (The Sea) (1929) The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo

Koga Harue's Umi (The Sea) (1929) The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo

The exhibition Surrealism Beyond Borders considers the international breadth of the Surrealist movement, looking at how the art movement spiralled outwards from its Parisian origins.

The show opens at the Metropolitan Museum of Art this month before travelling to Tate Modern in February next year. In New York, it will span eight galleries and hundreds of works from more than 40 countries. Familiar pieces by pioneers of the movement including Max Ernst and Giorgio de Chirico will be presented alongside lesser-known artists such as the Portuguese poet and artist Artur Cruzeiro Seixas and the Argentine painter Antonio Berni, whose work Landru in the Hotel, Paris (1932) serves as an example of its popularity in South America.

Artur Cruzeiro Seixas's O seu olhar já não se dirige para a terra, mas tem os pés assentes nela (1953) is made from pacaca (buffalo) hoof, papier mâché, gouache, wood and turtle bone © 2021 SPA, Lisbon / Licensed by VAGA at ARS. Photo: Cupertino de Miranda Foundation, Guilherme Carmelo

“Surrealism is inherently dynamic and has travelled and evolved from place to place and time to time,” says Stephanie D’Alessandro, the Met curator who co-organised the exhibition with Matthew Gale, a senior curator-at-large at the Tate Modern. “Its scope is—and always has been—transnational, extending across borders to unite ideas and people while also remaining specific and local in its liberatory drive.”

Among some of the key works, the show includes the monumental Night Flight of Dread and Delight (1964) by the Ethiopian-Armenian painter Skunder Boghossian, in which the artist merged his experience of the Black diaspora with Surrealism and stylistic influences from artists such as Roberto Matta. Several other examples, such as works by the Japanese painter Koga Harue and the Guatemalan artist Carlos Mérida, demonstrate how artists around the world interpreted the movement after its inception in the 1920s and made it their own.

Carlos Mérida's Plate 7, from the portfolio Estampas del Popol-Vuh (1943) © 2021 ARS, New York / SOMAAP, Mexico City

“Surrealism remains urgent, especially as it represents an invitation to imagine a position beyond what is presently circumscribed in our own moment of political and social instability marked by a pandemic, economic hardship, social unrest, exile and displacement, and growing nationalism, isolationism and repression,” D’Alessandro says. “The great writer and Surrealist, Suzanne Césaire, poignantly called Surrealism the ‘tightrope of our hope’ in 1943.”

Surrealism Beyond Borders, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York,
11 October-30 January 2022; Tate Modern, London, 24 February-29 August 2022

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