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Surrealism. Le Grand Jeu

Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne, 12th of April 2024 until 25th of August 2024

This transhistorical show, the first thematic exhibition devoted to Surrealism at MCBA since 1987, examines the unprecedented relevance today of this major movement in the history of art. Surrealism, a young centenarian, hasn’t aged one bit.

The year 2024 marks the centennial of the first Surrealist manifesto, which indeed saw print in 1924 and spawned one of the major artistic revolutions of the 20th century. In this context, the Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts of Lausanne presents its first thematic exhibition devoted to Surrealism since 1987 and examines its unprecedented topicality through the lens of play.

Initially present as an informal activity cementing sociability amongst members of the Surrealist movement, play crystalised the birth of a collective mindset defined by a reversal of traditional values, putting old rules in the dock while inventing new ways of making art.

Bringing together over sixty historical and contemporary artists, the show borrows its title from a review published in the late 1920s by a splinter group of young French Surrealists who refused to rally behind André Breton. This conflict was symptomatic of the movement, which fractured and reconfigured itself according to the passions, frictions, and friendships of the moment, making each artist by turns an adherent and a rebel.

The first floor features the historical section of the exhibition and looks at multiple aspects of play, both recreational and subversive or critical. It shows the extent to which play formed a way of being in the world and a means of negotiating between reality and imagination, the communicable and the incommunicable. Play is a space of liberty bound by certain constraints, and within that particular space, the exhibition highlights the creative exaltation harnessed by the Surrealists.

The show continues on the second floor with a series of invitations to artists of our day and age to carry on the burst of creative energies that characterised the Surrealists’ anarchistic spirit. It was that spirit that upended our way of visualising and conceptualising the body, language, and objects in their infinite capacity to be transformed. And although Surrealism proclaimed itself revolutionary, the movement gradually spread throughout society to the point of making its way into our everyday vocabulary. Seen with our eyes today, Surrealism endlessly questions our imagination and its depictions.