Museum Exhibit: Surreal Things at the V&A

The Victoria and Albert museum (locally known as the V&A) is a rather funky museum – I’ll never forget popping to see a small exhibition of Steranko Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD covers: how cool is that? – which houses exhibits looking at culture and design. It is quite a fabulous old building as well, and surprisingly easy to get lost in its labyrinth structure, and has the most lovely garden area with a tranquil fountain.

I am rather partial to surreal art – I think there is a connection between the paintings and comic book art, but I don’t have a degree in Art History to be able to fully explain my thinking – particularly Dali and Magritte. I have even been to the Dali Museum in Figueres, Spain, which was marvelously odd and bizarre, as one would hope and expect. I even remember that the toilets were interesting, although I only urinated in them; I thought perhaps I should masturbate in them, as a tribute to Dali and his chronic wanking habit, but it didn’t feel right, you know?

Now, as if they’ve read my mind, the V&A is having an exhibition, Surreal Things, exploring surrealism and its influence in other areas, such as film, advertising, architecture and fashion. Therefore, I dragged my girlfriend to South Kensington (not literally; we went by public transport, thanks for asking) to have a look around.

The exhibit is well staged; the space is well designed (how appropriate) and the level of information for each section and item is just right – enough to inform but not too much to turn it too academic. There is a huge amount on exhibit (the website states over 300 items) and plenty to enjoy. Not all of it is fascinating – I wasn’t the slightest bit interested in the dresses with surrealist patterns, for example – but there is enough diversity to make up for that.

There is some early surrealism to show the beginnings, and then moves through eras to show how it was assimilated by other industries, such as in advertising (models being photographed with surrealist props), design (such as modern furniture), films (Spellbound, Dali’s collaboration with Hitchcock on the dream sequence) and fashion (such as the bizarre jewellery Dali came up with), to plain old bizarre objects, such as the infamous Mae West Lips Sofa, Lobster Telephones and Venus de Milo With Drawers. There are a lot of paintings (which I thought missed the point – technically, they are objects, but they are more suited to a ‘normal’ exhibition), from Magritte and Dali and Miro, so you definitely get good value for money. I’m not sure if the exhibition is a success as a whole because you come out feeling that it was interesting but not dazzling; however, it is still very entertaining.

A description of a surrealist exhibition is self-defeating, as nothing is the same as seeing the objects up close for the full power of them. Erm, which kind of makes this post a bit pointless. Anyway, I would recommend the exhibition for anyone interested in surrealism and its affect on contemporary culture, especially now that surrealism has lost a lot of the power it had to shock and surprise when it first emerged. The exhibition lasts until 22 July, so there’s plenty of time to see it, and they seem to have the air conditioning on a high setting inside, so you’ll feel nice and cool during the hot summer that the UK will surely have.

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