André Breton, "the Pope of Surrealism" hoarded an impressive cabinet of curiosities in his atelier in the rue Fontaine. "André Breton spent his life surrounded by objects that were rich with contradictions," writes Noce. "At Drouot, the paintings—by Dalí, Ernst, Miró, and others—are the most valued. But in volume, the library constitutes the largest piece, attesting to an insatiable curiosity." His collection was auctioned off at the Hotel Drouot-Richelieu in Paris...4,100 lots! Books, which accounted for 3,500 of the lots, include some dedicated to Breton by Freud, Trotsky and Apollinaire as well as art catalogs and journals. This included the only known complete copy of André Breton's Surrealist Manifesto! Other key items such as his desk, his personal correspondence and a whole wall of objects and paintings by Miró, Duchamp, Kandinsky , Picasso, Arp, Victor Brauner, André Masson, Gorky and Picabia. Many of the pieces auctioned were personalized items, including art works, books and objects by Breton's friends and members of the Surrealist group he helped found, including Ernst, Man Ray, Dali, Magritte, Duchamp, Meret Oppenheim, Wifredo Lam and Diego Rivera. The wall's shelves were crowded with dozens of Oceanic sculptures as well as Inuit objects and pre-Hispanic figures from Mexico. He had a very large collection of primitive and outsider art. The sale was also replete with simple and found objects that Breton bought at auctions and flea markets or simply found while out strolling. "He had as much passion for a piece found on the bank of a river as for an important painting," says his daughter, Aube Breton Elléouët.
It's a shame Breton's collection wasn't kept whole...to be studied by future generations. I was looking at this photo of Breton in his atelier, it immediatly brought to mind this photo of Pop Surrealist, Mark Ryden in his studio. And now all I can think about is the link between collecting and the Surrealist mind. As a rule I try to keep myself free from associating myself with any particular philosophy, religion or movement. But it's probably true that I am a Surrealist at heart.
And what will become of my collections when I'm dead? Will my children/grandchildren understand the value of such a collection...the sentiment and symbolism behind each piece of art or artifact. Is it worth cataloging? I was reading an article about Breton, who was sometimes so poor that he went without power, and was forced to sell things from his collection to pay his bills. When faced with a financial crisis in 1931, most of his collection (along with his friend Paul Éluard's) was auctioned off. He subsequently rebuilt the collection until the time of his death in 2003. Certainly I've found myself in the same situation more than I care to admit. When I was trying to keep my little shop open, I sold many personal things that I wish I didn't sell. But still I have some great treasures! I wonder what my collection will be like when I'm as old as Breton was when he died at 70!?