Triumph of Desire – Danish and International Surrealism / new exhibition at ARKEN Museum

ARKEN Museum of Modern Art – Ishøj, Denmark

Triumph of Desire
Danish and International Surrealism
Exhibition : 6 september 2008 > 11 January 2009

The first exhibition to focus on the dialogue that emerged between the Danish and the international Surrealism in the 1930s.

A large section of the best Danish Surrealism will be presented alongside international artists like Dalí, Magritte, Miró, Max Ernst and Man Ray.

Wilhelm Freddie

Wilhelm Freddie
Envoy of the Dream, 1939.
Collection Birger Raben-Skov, Copenhagen
© All rights reserved


In the 1930s Surrealism spread like wildfire across Europe, led by Dalí, Magritte and Miró. Danish Surrealists from Wilhelm Freddie and Richard Mortensen to Heerup and Jorn were influenced by the international wave. But how was it expressed in their art? This is what ARKEN spotlights in the autumn exhibition.

ARKEN focuses on the dialogue that emerged between the Danish and international Surrealists in the 1930s. It has been 73 years since Danish and international Surrealism was last presented together in Copenhagen.

Conceived in Paris in the 1920s and spreading across Europe in the ‘30s, Surrealism was one of the twentieth century’s most influential and spectacular movements. Danish art was swept by the Surrealists’ wild ideas, sowing the seeds of e.g. the germinating CoBrA art in the 1940s. The Danish artists soaked up inspiration. Several of them exhibited alongside the great, international artists both at home and abroad. At ARKEN this dialogue manifests itself in a large number of interesting encounters, e.g. between Dane Wilhelm Freddie’s Envoy of the Dream and Magritte’s In Memoriam Mack Sennett.

Max Ernst

Max Ernst
The Fascinating Cypress, 1940
Sprengel Museum Hannover
© All rights reserved


The time was heavily influenced by Freudian thought, as were the artists. The subconscious and not least the sex drive were the centre of attraction. Therefore ARKEN’s exhibition focuses on the erotic and sensual aspects in both nature and everyday objects. Salvador Dalí’s msterpiece Lobster Telephone is an example of an everyday object transformed into a fascinating creature. A sensual, crawling and alien beast. Maybe it wriggles in your hand or scratches your ear?

Wilhelm Freddie’s famous work Sex Paralysis Appeal, which was confiscated in 1936 by the police, is shown in the exhibition. A female bust with a penis on its cheek, a rope around its neck and two wineglasses hanging nonchalantly on the chest. Like Dalí he transforms everyday objects into works of art with erotic, humorous and dangerous undertones.

Wilhelm Freddie

Wilhelm Freddie
Sex-paralysappeal, 1936
Nordjyllands Kunstmuseum
© All rights reserved

Rita Kernn-Larsen

Rita Kernn-Larsen
Festen [ The Party ], 1937
Museum Sønderjylland
© All rights reserved

Richard Mortensen

Richard Mortensen
Grønne fugle [Green birds], 1936
Herning Art Museum
© All rights reserved


To create art in direct contact with the subconscious, the Surrealists employed oddball and playful working methods. Inspired by the international Surrealists, Jorn did abstract “automatic drawings” which he invited other artists to continue. In automatic drawings the artist allows his instincts to govern the pen, thus giving the subconscious free rein. Another Surrealist method was folding drawings as we know them from children’s birthday parties: One person draws, folds the paper and passes it to the next person who continues without being able to see the previous drawing. From this Surrealist game shared pictures were created with strange motifs to tempt our imagination and desire to the surface.

”TRIUMPH OF DESIRE – Danish and International Surrealism” presents works by Danish artists such as Wilhelm Freddie, Ejler Bille, Sonja Ferlov, Vilhelm Bjerke Petersen, Henry Heerup and Asger Jorn alongside Salvador Dalí, René Magritte, Man Ray, Max Ernst, Joan Miró, Jean Arp and others. A total of more than forty artists.

The exhibition comprises 133 paintings, drawings, sculptures, objects, photographs and collages. In addition it shows the connection between Danish and international Surrealism through journals and documentary material. The works are on loan from Danish and international museums as well as from galleries and private collectors in Denmark and abroad.

Triumph of Desire is part of the cultural festival Golden Days in Copenhagen.

Read more about the festival here

    Text © ARKEN Museum of Modern Art
    Images © All rights reserved


Disclaimer & Copyright


~ by Stampfli & Turci on September 9, 2008.

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