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World famous collection of Surrealism coming to Te Papa

A unique, world famous collection of Surrealist art is coming to Te Papa this winter.


Surrealist Art: Masterpieces from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen | He Toi Pohewa: He Toi Marupō o Muhiama o Boijmans Van Beuningen opens Saturday 12 June and runs until 31 October 2021 in Te Papa’s gallery, Toi Art.

The 180 fascinating pieces include major works by artists such as Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, Leonora Carrington, René Magritte, and Marcel Duchamp.

Te Papa is the only venue in the Asia Pacific region to host the exhibition.

The renowned collection is coming from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam and includes sculpture, furniture, paintings, graphic design, prints, and photography.

Visitors will be able to see iconic Surrealist works such as Dalí’s Mae West Lips Sofa (1938), a playfully subversive couch shaped as a lush pair of red lips, and René Magritte’s La maison de verre (The glass house) (1939), an uncanny masterpiece in which a man’s face looks out from the back of his head.

Courtney Johnston, Te Papa’s Tumu Whakarae | Chief Executive, is delighted that New Zealanders will get this rare opportunity to see some of the world’s most important Surrealist works.

“Surrealist art has created many of the most defining images of the last 100 years. The exhibition will highlight the creative, influential and revolutionary nature of these artists and their work,” Ms Johnston says.

Surrealist Art | He Toi Pohewa will be the largest Surrealist exhibition ever shown in New Zealand. None of the works have been seen in New Zealand before. The last significant Surrealist show toured to the Auckland City Art Gallery in 1972.

Surrealism was launched by manifesto in Paris in 1924 and brought together a group of artists and writers who saw their work as a political act. Surrealist Art | He Toi Pohewa includes artworks from the 1920s to the 1960s.

Te Papa Head of Art Charlotte Davy says that Surrealism sought to disrupt, unsettle, and provoke.

“Surrealist artists tried to create a new kind of reality which was centred around dreams, the unconscious, and the irrational. They used playful, subversive techniques and materials to shock and surprise their audiences,” Ms Davy says.

“Visitors will be struck by the power of Surrealist ideas which are still incredibly relevant today – both politically and as an influence on contemporary artists.”

The exhibition includes work by all of the major Surrealist artists. The most prominent artist in the exhibition is Salvador Dalí. His works include exquisitely fine paintings and printmaking, playful sculptures and design, and unsettling film.

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is currently undergoing large-scale renovation work. Director Sjarel Ex says he is delighted to be able to present art from their extensive collection in overseas institutions.

“With Boijmans Abroad, our top works from the collection here in Rotterdam can be seen in museums worldwide, and always in a different setting. We wish the Surrealists a good journey and we look forward to seeing them again in our new building Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen,” Mr Ex says.

Te Papa Kaihautū Dr Arapata Hakiwai says Te Papa is honoured to host this significant exhibition.

“We are proud to host an exhibition of this calibre and give New Zealanders the chance to experience art from one of the great galleries of Europe,” Dr Hakiwai says. 

For the first time, Te Papa is offering a youth price, with reduced entry charges for people aged under 26.

“We believe the Surrealists’ subversive and playful work will have particular appeal to a young audience, and we want to make this exhibition as accessible as possible to young New Zealanders” Ms Davy says.

Tickets go on sale on Friday 9 April 2021. Find out more and register interest at


Salvador Dalí, Couple with their heads in the clouds, oil on panel, 1936. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. Purchase with the support of: the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Foundation, the Rembrandt Association, the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds, the Erasmusstichting and Stichting Bevordering van Volkskracht. Photo: Studio Tromp. © Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí/VEGAP. Copyright Agency, 2020.

Contact details: 
Ellie Campbell Senior Communications Adviser, Te Papa 029 601 0120