Dali's Surrealist Furniture in Shanghai

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Wednesday, 2015, October 21

Three weeks after opening, the exhibition on the Bund18 in Shanghai, China has already attracted   over 12,000 visitors , since opening on September 26th.

Despite the seasonal typhoon and six day Chinese Golden Week holiday, the exhibition has progressively seen increasing visitor numbers.

Amongst the many artworks on display, there are colourful   examples  of surrealist  furniture like the famous Mae West Lips Sofa. In 1936, Dali   already thought that every portrait could be transformed into living room furniture.

He became interested in furniture after having met Jean Michel Franck, the famous interior decorator.    One of the highlights of the exhibition was the famous red love-seat sofa inspired by the sensuous lips of the actress Mae West. The sofa reverses Dalí’s usual paranoiac-critical method of attempting to see images within objects. Dalí began his point of reference with an actual image, the Mae West’s sensual lips, and created a functional object. The actress was renowned more for her voluptuous figure and her risqué one-liners than for her acting skills, and Dalí, with his great skill for publicity and maintaining his place in the public eye, paid homage to her with this inspired and original sofa.  The first sofa was constructed in Paris in 1936, under Dalí's supervision, based on his original sketch. The upholstery fabric was in Elsa Schiapparelli's "shocking pink". Such is the popularity of this piece of furniture, that it has become instantly recognisable and has been copied many times since by mainstream furniture-makers.

Other projects   dating back to 1935-1937 are ‘The Lamp with Drawers’ and the ‘Floor Lamp  with Crutches ‘(1936-1937).

These mixed- media  objects are displayed in a manner that reproduces a small living room in which we find other creations  such as the Lamp with Drawers and the Floor Lamp with Crutche.

In these sketches, Dali made separate studies of each corresponding lampshade. The draped fabric is very carefully designed, to show clear fluid lines.

The emblematic piece in the living room is the Vis-à-Vis, or the Confident, well-named for its shape and purpose, which is to encourage private conversation and exchange: as it happens, the surrealistic lovers' conversation par excellence, the one between Dali and Gala. Upholstered in "shocking pink" fabric, designed by Elsa Schiaparelli for the Mae West Lips Sofa, it demonstrates Dali's skillfulness (as if it needed to be demonstrated!) at subtly changing the derogative connotation attached to this furniture style that was in fashion during Napoleon III's reign, and which was hardly known in the 30's.