03 December 2019

2020 is going to be fantastic: The Schirn dedicates a first-time, major survey exhibition to the female contribution to Surrealism.

By Schirn Magazine

At the beginning of 2020, the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt is presenting the large-scale exhibition project “Fantastic Women: Surreal Worlds from Meret Oppenheim to Frida Kahlo.” Running from February 13 until May 24, 2020, the show is dedicated to the women artists of Surrealism. Goddess, she-devil, doll, fetish, child-woman or wonderful dream creature – in various guises, women were the central subject of male Surrealist fantasies.

Initially it was often in the role of companion or model that female artists could succeed in penetrating the circle surrounding André Breton, the founder of the Surrealist group. However, upon closer examination it becomes evident that the participation of women artists in the movement was considerably larger than is generally known or reported. In a first-time major survey exhibition, the Schirn presents the contribution of women to Surrealism. 

The participation of women artists was considerably larger than is generally known

Female artists differed from their male colleagues above all in their reversal of perspective: they questioned their own reflection or took on different roles in the search for a (new) model of female identity. Contemporary political events, literature, and non-European myths and religions are among the subjects the women Surrealists examine in their works.


Dorothea Tanning, Voltage, 1942 © The Estate of Dorothea Tanning/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019, Photo: Jochen Littkemann, Berlin

The exhibition features female artists directly associated with the Surrealist movement, though sometimes only for a short period; they knew Breton personally, exhibited with the group, or considered Surrealist ideas from a theoretical point of view.

Featuring 34 artists from 11 countries, the exhibition reflects a diverse spectrum 

Featuring some 260 remarkable paintings, works on paper, sculptures, photographs, and films by 34 artists from 11 countries, the exhibition reflects a diverse spectrum in terms of both style and content. Besides well-known figures like Louise Bourgeois, Claude Cahun, Leonora Carrington, Frida Kahlo, Meret Oppenheim, and Dorothea Tanning, numerous unknown, exciting artists from more than three decades of Surrealist art such as Toyen, Alice Rahon, and Kay Sage also await discovery. The exhibition shows representative selections of works by the artists, while also reflecting networks and friendships among the women in Europe, the US, and Mexico.

Leonora Carrington, Portrait of the late Mrs. Partridge, 1947 © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019, Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago