White Aphrodisiac Telephone
Date 1936
Medium Mixed media
Dimensions 20 x 30 x 15 cm
Inventory ID UID 102-149
The first example of a lobster telephone receiver appeared in 1935 in an article in the American Weekly (New York, 17 March), with the title ‘New York as Seen by the Super-Realist Artist M. Dali’. The object, with a live lobster, was almost certainly shown at the painter's most recent solo exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery. However, it did not figure in the exhibition of surrealist objects at the Galerie Ratton in Paris in 1936, and it was not until 1938 that a plastic version of the lobster appeared. This version was produced for the English poet Edward James, a godson of the King of England, who was one of the greatest patrons of the surrealists, particularly of Dalí, Leonora Carrington, Man Ray, and René Magritte, and who financed the journal Le Minotaure. James, who supported Dalí financially for over two years, commissioned a sofa in the form of Mae West's lips and lobster telephones for his London home in Wimpole Street. Dalí ordered ten models of the telephone from the company Green & Abbott in two versions: four in colour, with a black telephone and an auburn lobster (The Tate Modern, London; The Edward James Foundation, Chichester; The Deutsches Postmuseum, Frankfurt; The National Gallery of Australia, Canberra) and six in white (The Edward James Foundation, Chichester; Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam; The Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis; The Salvador Dalí Museum, St Petersburg, Florida; The Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg; the Museu Coleção Berardo, Lisbon). It became one of the most emblematic objects of the surrealist movement as it perfectly corresponded to Lautréamont's formula, to which the surrealists subscribed: 'the chance encounter of an umbrella and a sewing machine on an operating table’. It was presented in this form for the first time at the Exposition internationale du surréalisme at the Galerie Beaux-arts in Paris in 1938. AC
Edward James; The Edward James Foundation, Chichester; The Mayor Gallery, London; acquired in 1999.