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Sublimely Surreal - A Review Of The Tate Modern's Latest Exhibition

36ft artworks and UK debuts, Surrealism Beyond Borders illustrates the global perspective of the Surrealist movement

By Hannah Connolly

22 February 2022
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urrealism began and thrived as a global collective, yet the international scope has never been illustrated as deftly as the Tate Modern's latest landmark exhibition. Opening its door this week, Surrealism Beyond Borders showcases the collaborative nature of the surrealist movement.

The exhibit, curated by Matthew Gale and Stephanie d'Alessandro, spans over three decades and includes artworks from over 50 countries including Buenos Aires, Cairo, Mexico City, Tokyo and Seoul.

Showcasing the meeting and subsequent collaboration, creation and experimentation within a movement that allowed its originators and admirers to challenge authority and dream of new worlds.

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Rene Magritte - Time Transfixed, 1970

A movement that anchored itself, or rather floated adrift on the idea of the unconscious mind rather than the rigidity of the everyday. The reach of Surrealism, which started as embers remains a roaring inferno of fascination today with Surrealist works drawing huge crowds to the Tate's permanent collections.

Though, make no mistake, the highlights of this exhibition are extraordinary in nature, some having never showcased in the UK before. Surrealism Beyond Borders also marks further acquisitions in the Tate Modern's expansive photography collection.

Works by the inimitable Vogue Fashion photographer, turned war photographer, turned Surrealist visionary Lee Miller join the roster as well as some works by Kati Horna, increasing the Tate's collection of female Surrealist photography.

Across interconnecting rooms over 150 pieces fill canvases, glass cabinets and are projected against walls, emphasising the multidisciplinary nature of the selected works and indeed the movement itself.

Stand outs include the rare and staggering beauty of works by Remedios Varo. Making a UK debut and reunited for the first time in 60 years, a triptych by the artist is an allegory of her strict Catholic upbringing and the agency that Surrealism provided female artists when they themselves created their own art.

Remedios Varo, a reunited triptych makes its debut in the UK. (From left to right Hacia la torre (To the Tower), Bordando el manto Terrestre (Embroidering the Earth's Mantel) & Varo La huida (The Fight), 1961.

In fact, Varo is a shining example of the essence of this exhibition, forced to flee from France at the outbreak of the war, Varo made for Mexico City. Here, she formed part of a collective of major female contributors to the movement inclusive of Leonora Carrington, Frida Kahlo and Kati Horna.

The works selected provide a refreshing abundance of the women artists at the forefront, which have upon some occasion been relegated to the background of Surrealist movement retrospectives.

A further feat includes a wall to wall glass case, housing a 36ft work entitled: Long Distance and known as The Exquisite Corpse, which like a childhood game of consequences (from which the game originates), features over 132 contributors all of which have added their mark to the accordion-like paper.

A veritable index of the movements key proprietors, the lined paper features pen or pencil sketches by the likes of Dorothea Tanning, Betye Saar, Luciennce Bloch and Andre Breton.

Conceived by Ted Joans, the 'exquisite corpse' that took over 30 years to create makes its UK debut. Long Distance, 1976

The Short Stack

36ft artworks and UK debuts, Surrealism Beyond Borders illustrates the global perspective of the Surrealist movement

By Hannah Connolly

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