Thursday, November 13, 2008

Home of the Surrealist

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.

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It's a shame Breton's collection wasn't kept 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!?


Diane Irvine Armitage said...

What a wonderful post! I too have a collection of curiosities and think about what will become of them when I'm gone. My husband just smiles and says Ebay!

bloodmilk. said...

There is a large collection of AB's things at the Pompidou Museum in Paris......quite's the link:

Its in a very dark room and is most lovely....

Anonymous said...

I think you may be a Pop-Surrealist but unless you're a Marxist who believes only in art as that which bubbles up raw from the "unconscious" without any editing, Breton would have had nothing to do with you and refused to acknowledge you as a true Surrealist. In fact, he eventually disowned many of his early Surrealist friends for not towing his Party Line. He was never an easy fellow to get on with.

But wouldn't you have loved to have seen that collection!

I love surrealist art and the surrealist aesthetic. I think the Pop-Surrealists "get it". I think you do too. I love this place!

Lady Lavona said...

lol! Definitly not a Marxist! I have a Virgo Moon which = OCD! So I must edit!

From what I've read on Breton, he took himself rather seriously. And like you said, "eventually disowned many of his early Surrealist friends for not towing his Party Line". I get along quite well with stuffy intellectual types though. I imagine Breton had a very stoic disposition, as do most people who ponder the nature of reality for long enough. I bet I could get him to change his mind about a few things! His stuborn outlook about "true Surrealism" is rather contradictory, don't you think? Because the realm of the unconscious mind of an indvidual is fluid and ever the Surrealist Manifesto should be too! After all, Breton himself concludes "that Surrealist activity follows no set plan or conventional pattern, and that Surrealists are ultimately nonconformists."

Maybe I should sit down with my Ouija Board and summon Breton...then I can address this question to him! Haha!

And yes I would have loved to have seen his collection! Better yet, to have been a fly on the wall at one of his parties!

Thank for reading! ;)

Uncommon Objects Blog said...

Oh dearie...I too have had to sell many a treasure to help out with the finances. No fun at all! I had to sell two Jennybird Alcantara originals one time. Now, thankfully, I manage my money a wee bit better, and can hold on to my treasures...
Have a great weekend love!

Administration said...

What a fantastic blog! And your etsy store rocks! (And has bought on a severe case of cash-consciousness... goi ng mad on the many beautiful things will have to wit until I'm making money again...). I've been researching wunderkammern for the last few years -- so was v. excited to see the remnents of breton's collection in Paris a few years ago... and lovely to be reminded of it. It, in part, inspired my own blog (Museum of Dust), which sadly has been rather abandoned in favour of something a little more... inclusive.

I'd mail you, but can't find an email address -- so please consider this a very warm welcome to join and be part of the foundation community of a new 'social museum' for makers and collectors of the marvelous.

Curiosity Cabinet is at -- at this stage it's just a tiny starting community that a friend and I are still building -- but we're eager for feedback and suggestions... and for wonderful things like yours...

cheers -- and hoping to see you there