Surrealism and Magic. Enchanted modernity

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From 9 April to 26 September 2022 the Peggy Guggenheim Collection presents Surrealism and Magic. Enchanted Modernity curated by Gražina Subelytė, Associate Curator, Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Over twenty artists, approximately sixty works from forty prestigious museums and private collections worldwide: it is the first, and much expected, exhibition entirely devoted to the Surrealists’ interest in magic, alchemy and the occult. Chronologically, the exhibition ranges from Giorgio de Chirico’s metaphysical painting, from around 1915, to iconic paintings such as Max Ernst’s Attirement of the Bride (1940) and Victor Brauner’s The Lovers (Les Amoureux, 1947), to the occult symbolism of the late works of Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo.

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With the Manifesto of Surrealism, published in October 1924, the French writer André Breton founded a literary and artistic movement that would soon become the leading avant-garde of its time. Marked by the horrors of the First and Second World Wars, the Surrealists rejected rationality, choosing to pursue alternative approaches: dreams, the irrational, the unconscious, but also magic, mythology, alchemy and the occult.

Surrealism and magic. Enchanted Modernity revolves around themes such as alchemy, metamorphosis and the androgyne, tarot cards, totemic substance, the invisible and cosmic dimensions, as well as the idea of the artist as magician and the woman as magical being, goddess and witch.

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At the heart of the exhibition is the superb collection of Surrealist works in the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, iconic works that emphatically reflect the dialogue between the Surrealists and the tradition of the occult. Many of the artists represented in the exhibition were exhibited by Peggy Guggenheim, who in the late 1930s was considered one of the most vibrant collectors of Surrealism. During these years, Peggy Guggenheim became familiar with the movement and soon became close friends with Ernst and Breton.

In addition, at the entrance to the exhibition, in a special screening room, the public will be able to see the short film by Ukrainian-born American avant-garde filmmaker Maya Deren, The Witch’s Cradle (1943), shot in Peggy Guggenheim’s museum-gallery Art of This Century, an unfinished work that highlights Deren’s interest in witchcraft and ritualism.

The exhibition, displayed in the temporary exhibition spaces, has its natural continuation in the galleries of Palazzo Venier dei Leoni. Numerous Surrealist works collected by Peggy Guggenheim will be displayed in dialogue with the African and Oceanic works belonging to the collection.

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The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is part of Asvis, the Italian Alliance for Sustainable Development which promotes the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda.
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