Surrealism and Magic: Enchanted Modernity at Museum Barberini, Potsdam

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Kay Sage Tomorrow Is Never, 1955 Oil on canvas 96,2 x 136,8 cm The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Arthur Hoppock Hearn Fund, 1955 © The Estate of Kay Sage / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022, Image: bpk, Berlin / The Metropolitan Museum of Art

When the Manifesto of Surrealism was published by the French writer André Breton in October 1924, it sparked a literary and artistic movement that soon became the internationally leading avant-garde.

surrealism and magic
Victor Brauner The Surrealist, 1947 Oil on canvas 60 x 45 cm Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice (Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York) © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022, Image: Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York (Photo: David Heald)

At the core of Surrealism lay an exploration of the world of dreams, the unconscious, and the irrational. The artists immersed themselves in the world of magic. Harking back to traditional occult symbolism, the Surrealists cultivated the self-image of a magician, seer, and alchemist.

De Chirico Gehirn des Kindes
Giorgio de Chirico The Child’s Brain, 1914 Oil on canvas 80 x 65 cm Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Purchase 1964 © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022, Image: Moderna Museet, Stockholm

The exhibition Surrealism and Magic is the first major loan exhibition to examine the Surrealists’ interest in magic, myth, and occultism. It spans the period of the “metaphysical paintings” by Giorgio de Chirico from around 1915 to Max Ernst’s iconic painting Attirement of the Bride (1940) and the occultism-focused compositions in the late work of Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo.

Carrington Cat Woman Front
Leonora Carrington Cat Woman (La Grande Dame), 1951 Carved and polychrome wood ca 202 cm high Private collection © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022

The exhibition assembles around ninety works by more than twenty artists, including masterpieces by Victor Brauner, Paul Delvaux, Leonor Fini, Wifredo Lam, René Magritte, André Masson, Roberto Matta, Kurt Seligmann, Yves Tanguy, and Dorothea Tanning.

Magritte Schwarze Magie
René Magritte Black Magic, 1945 Oil on canvas 79 x 59 cm Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels, Bequest of Mrs. Georgette Magritte, Brussels, 1987 © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022, Image: Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels (Photo: J. Geleyns)

The more than thirty international lenders include the Art Institute of Chicago, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Galleria Nazionale in Rome, the Museo nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid, the Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique in Brussels, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.

The exhibition is organized by the Museum Barberini, Potsdam, and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice.

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