7 February 2024


Zoom lecture

Modernist Paris 3

Dada and Surrealism: The Rebels of the Avant-garde

A lecture based on the exhibition at the Petit Palais, Paris

(until 14 April 2024)

with Sylvie Koneski

Marcel Duchamp, L.H.O.O.Q, 1919
Marcel Duchamp, L.H.O.O.Q, 1919

Surrealist Walking Dream Séance,1924
Surrealist Walking Dream Séance,1924

Dada, was founded by Tristan Tzara and Hugo Ball in Zurich in 1916 and moved to Paris after WWI ended. Surrealism, was founded and defined by André Breton in his 1924 Paris Manifesto. They were destined to become the two most revolutionary art and literary movements of the 1920s. Dada, reacting to the senseless destruction of the World War, promoted mockery, chance and anarchy and was essentially an anti-art movement. Surrealism, in contrast, was a more defined movement which evolved as artists and writers took up Freud's concept of the unconscious to undermine rational thought and conservative social conventions. Both groups were connected by their rejection of idealism, stale artistic and intellectual traditions, and modern society’s embrace of ‘rationalism’ and ‘progress’.


Artists like Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia, Max Ernst, René Magritte, Salvador Dali and Man Ray used paintings, collages, sculptures, assemblages, photographs, photomontages, film stills and graphics to represent in concrete terms the imagery of dream and fantasy. Surrealism also counted more women than any other movement among its members: Lee Miller, Dora Maar, Meret Oppenheim, Leonora Carrington and Dorothea Tanning, to name just a few, were both muses and artists.


Both Paris movements established some of the key radical trends of 20th century art and thought, whose repercussions we still experience today.

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