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Friday, November 2 • 4:00pm - 5:30pm
4.C. Consumption and the Marketplace

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PANEL. Consumption and the Marketplace

"When the Avant-garde Promotes Itself: The Creation of the Surrealist Art Market"
Alice Ensabella
Center for Italian Modern Art

The circulation of Surrealist artworks (and so the movement theoretical and aesthetical ideas) passed not only by writers’ and artists’ activities, or through their physical presence in foreign countries, but also by art market streams. Although, from the 1930s, the international fortune of Surrealist art is renowned both in term of circulation and of influences on local schools and artists, the system that the surrealists themselves put in place since the 1920s to assure this reception lays today little known. This paper aims to present the main results of my recent dissertation on the development of the artistic market around Surrealist movement during its years of formation and its early years of activity (1919-1930). I will focus on three main axes, representing the specific areas of the market in which surrealists operate. Private collections (Breton and Eluard), auctions (Eluard and Duchamp’s collections sales – July 1924, March 1926) and galleries (Jacques Viot’s exhibitions at the Galerie Pierre and the activity of the Galerie Surréaliste). The reconstruction of the dynamics and strategies adopted by the members of the group to foster their artistic research is essential, on one side to justify the lack of a unique and charismatic dealer representing the movement, on the other, to better understand the creation of the promotional model that will characterize the international presentations of the movement in the following decades: the International Exhibitions of Surrealism.

"Dining, Desire, and Surrealist Consumption in Postwar France"
Jennifer Cohen
University of Chicago

This paper takes up a set of ephemeral public events undertaken for the opening nights of International Surrealist Exhibitions organized in the decades following World War II: Meret Oppenheim’s event Spring Feast (1959) and Jean Benoît’s costumed performance The Necrophiliac (1965). These exhibitions proved occasions to negotiate the movement’s contradictory status as a vital influence on a growing range of related postwar avant-gardes and as an aging avant-garde itself, despite its growing number of younger adherents. Events taking up themes of cannibalism offered up a complex identification of the surrealist artist as particular a kind of “consumer,” framing the activity of the self-authored retrospective exhibition itself as one of autophagy. I will situate these events as a return to prewar surrealist motifs of dining and desire, for instance in the terms of Salvador Dalí, on one hand, who argued for edibility as the last phase in a historical process of subject-object identification, and in the interrelated photography and printing practices of Max Ernst and Man Ray, on the other, which posited the inedibility of the still life as a metaphor for engaged art viewership in projects such as Ray’s Delicious Fields (1922), Ernst’s A Week of Kindness (1934), and their collaborative project Mr. Knife Miss Fork (1944). Re-tooling these earlier debates, postwar surrealists promoted a multiply-coded consumer ethic, maintaining the importance of desire as a precursor to social action while self-critically participating in reconstruction era French consumerism.

"Surrealism in the Department Store"
Natalya Lusty
University of Sydney 

In 1939, Salvador Dali designed his infamous “Day” and “Night” windows for the high-end New York department store, Bonwit Teller. Creating a media sensation that propelled the event into the annals of history, more as “happening” or “live experiment” than mere window display, Dali’s commission for Bonwit Teller precipitated an extensive collaboration with the advertising, fashion and entertainment world, including his June 1939 cover for Vogue magazine, titled “Dali’s Dreams,” which pre-empted his “Dream of Venus” pavilion for the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Described by Peter Sloterdijk as “a warlord of inventions,” Dali’s collaborations with the commercial world were nevertheless pre-empted by the work of Frederick Kiesler, the visionary architect, designer and artist. In his extraordinary treatise, Contemporary Art Applied to the Store and Its Display (1930), Kiesler advocated the extensive collaboration between modernist art and department stores, illustrating his books with examples of Surrealist art and Kiesler’s own innovative window designs for Saks Fifth Avenue in 1928. Kiesler’s book, part manifesto, part instructive manual, promoted a deep and lasting collaboration between the formal experimentation of avant-garde art and the commercial concerns of the department store, or what he described as “a sound cooperation between public, artist and industry.” This paper examines Kiesler’s ground-breaking treatise in the context of Surrealism’s broader commercial application in this period.

Speakers
JC

Jennifer Cohen

Lecturer, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
AE

Alice Ensabella

Center for Italian Modern Art
avatar for Natalya Lusty

Natalya Lusty

Professor, University of Melbourne

Chairs
JW

John Westbrook

Associate Professor of French, Bucknell University