Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Brightonians pucker up for Dali’s decadent Lips


by Jian Farhoumand.


Walking into the Brighton Museum, Pavilion Gardens, one is immediately struck by the wide and eclectic array of exciting and bizarre-looking pieces of furniture on display.

The free exhibition traces the development of innovation in modernist and surrealist interior design throughout the twentieth century, a period marked by political and social upheaval, clearly reflected in the emerging designs and technologies of the day.



In 1924, Andre Bretoni’s Surrealist Manifesto began an artistic movement concerned with the incongruous and irrational, drawing on Sigmund Freud’s theories of the unconscious mind and power of dreams.

The Surrealist Manifesto proved a huge influence on the Spanish artsist Salvador Dali (1904-‘88).

A few yards into the main hall of the Brighton Museum is the prize piece of the exhibition: a 1938 example of Salvador Dali’s Mae West’s Lips Sofa.

The sofa takes the form of a pair of bright red, larger-than-life lips, and shows off an underlying sensuality that complements its unusual choice of form. 



The iconic sofa is based upon Dali’s original 1934 painting, The Face of Mae West, and is built from wood and upholstered in red felt and  wool.

Dali collaborated with his English patron, the poet Edward James (1907-’84), on creating the sofa alongside other modernist and surrealist objects, also notably the Lobster Telephone.

There are other intriguing pieces also on display in the Brighton Museum exhibition.

A giant leather chair, known as the Joe Chair, formed in the shape of a huge baseball glove, made as a tribute to baseball player Joe Di Maggio (and clearly inspired by Dali’s lips sofa) is also on display.


The chair was first made by a Surrealist art group known as Memphis, founded in Milan in the 1980s, and shares an underlying playfulness and magnification of form with Dali’s work.

Both Dali’s Mae West’s Lips sofa and an example of Memphis’ Joe Chair will remain on display at the Brighton gallery until March 2014.

It’s worth a visit as you’ll see some highly unusual artefacts made by some highly eccentric people.

If you like your art and artists larger-than-life, then this is the place to go.


The gallery is open Tuesday – Sunday, 10am -5pm. Admission is free.






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