Fantastic Women. Surreal worlds from Meret Oppenheim to Frida Kahlo
Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt
February 13 – July 05, 2020
From February 13 to July 05, 2020, the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt presents “Fantastic Women: Surreal Worlds from Meret Oppenheim to Frida Kahlo,” a major survey devoted to the women artists of Surrealism. Goddess, she-devil, doll, fetish, child-woman or wonderful dream creature – in various guises, women were the central subject of male Surrealist fantasies. Women artists initially found their way into the circle surrounding André Breton, the founder of the Surrealist group, as companions or models. Yet they quickly broke out of those traditional roles and confidently created independent work.
For the first time, the exhibition at the Schirn examines the female contribution to Surrealism and reveals that the participation of women artists in the movement was considerably larger than generally known or previously portrayed. The unconscious, dreams and chance, myths and metamorphoses, literature and contemporary political events as well as material experiments and staged photography – many of these familiar themes of Surrealism are also characteristic of the work done by women. Female artists differed from their male colleagues above all in their reversal of perspective: they questioned their own reflection or took on different roles in search for a (new) model of female and artistic identity.
The exhibition focuses on women artists who were directly associated with the Surrealist movement founded in Paris in the early 1920s, though sometimes only for a short period. They knew Breton personally, exhibited with the group, contributed to publications, or considered Surrealist ideas from a theoretical point of view. Featuring about 260 remarkable paintings, works on paper, sculptures, photographs, and films by 34 artists from 11 countries, the exhibition covers a wide range of styles and subjects. Besides well-known figures like Louise Bourgeois, Claude Cahun, Leonora Carrington, Frida Kahlo, Meret Oppenheim, and Dorothea Tanning, numerous as yet lesser-known artists from more than three decades of Surrealist art, such as Toyen, Alice Rahon, and Kay Sage, also await discovery.
The exhibition features representative selections of works by each of the artists, while at the same time reflecting networks and friendships among the women artists in Europe, the US, and Mexico. The Schirn has been able to obtain important loans for the exhibition in Frankfurt from a large number of museums in Germany and abroad and both public and private collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Tate London; the National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris; Musée national Picasso, Paris; Kunstmuseum Bern; Kunstmuseum Basel; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; mumok – Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna; and the Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City.
Dr. Philipp Demandt, Director of the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, explains: “With ‘Fantastic Women,’ the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt is presenting a premiere: with some 260 works by 34 women artists we will give our visitors a whole new perspective on Surrealist art. The exhibition is a comprehensive and unprecedented overview of the decidedly female side of Surrealism. And the research underlying it aims to finally and conclusively complement the account of this crucial movement in art.”
Dr. Ingrid Pfeiffer, curator of the exhibition, points out: “In no other artistic movement of Modernism women played such a central role and were involved in such large numbers as in Surrealism. And yet to this day, many of their names and works are missing in publications and survey exhibitions. The women artists presented at the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt adopted the ideas of the Surrealist group in unique ways and pursued them further in highly individual works. Seeing them together, we gain better insight into the international network, the incredible diversity and the impressive independence of both the better and lesser-known women artists of Surrealism. After all, Surrealism was a state of mind rather than a style.”