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Surrealism and Magic: Enchanted Modernity

Oct 22, 2022 – Jan 29, 2023

The exhibition Surrealism and Magic: Enchanted Modernity (October 22, 2022 – January 29, 2023) was the first large-scale international loan exhibition to focus on the Surrealists’ interest in magic and myth. 

With his Manifesto of Surrealism, published in October 1924, the French writer André Breton founded a literary and artistic movement that soon became the leading international avant-garde. At the center of the Surrealist enterprise lay a reorientation towards the world of the night-dream, the unconscious and the irrational. Numerous artists, who moved in the intellectual orbit of the movement, also immersed themselves in the imaginative world of magic. In their works, they frequently drew on occult symbolism and cultivated the traditional image of the artist’s persona as a magician, seer, and alchemist. The exhibition ranges from the “metaphysical painting” of Giorgio de Chirico around 1915, through Max Ernst’s iconic painting Attirement of the Bride (1940), to the occult imagery that underpinned the late works of Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo.

 Victor Brauner:  The Surrealist , 1947, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice

Victor Brauner: The Surrealist, 1947, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice

Magic was a stimulus to thinking. It freed man from fears, endowed him with a feeling of his power to control the world, sharpened his capacity to imagine, and kept awake his dreams of higher achievement.

Kurt Seligmann, „Das Weltreich der Magie“, 1948
 Kay Sage,  Tomorrow Is Never , 1955, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Kay Sage, Tomorrow Is Never, 1955, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The concept of the exhibition could be based on the outstanding holdings of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, which has one of the most important collections of Surrealist painting in the world. Numerous works acquired by Peggy Guggenheim in the course of her patronage of the Surrealist movement vividly reflect its iconographic borrowings from occult symbolism.

Ortrud Westheider, Director, Museum Barberini
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Surrealism and Magic
Catalog of the exhibition

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