Dali Museum Building, Daytime

Poetic Play: Surrealist Games

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September 1, 2016 – September 10, 2020

We are pleased to display our recent acquisition, a 1932 exquisite corpse – a collaborative piece by Salvador Dalí, his wife Gala, surrealism leader Andre Breton and painter Valentine Hugo.

In creating an exquisite corpse, each “player” contributes a part of a drawing, folds the paper to conceal it, then passes it on to the next player for their contribution. The resulting image often resembles a monstrous creature – mismatched legs, torso and head. The goal was to utilize chance in producing something potentially more poetic than what an individual would produce.

In this exquisite corpse , Dalí provided the gun and knife; Gala added arches; Breton contributed hands and an upside down puppet; Hugo provided the foreshortened female torso. It is now on display in the Museum’s James Family Wing alongside two examples of decalcomania which is also a game as well as an artistic technique. The Surrealists enjoyed game playing as a source of poetic inspiration.

In decalcomania, ink is applied to a page, which is folded and opened to reveal an abstract symmetrical pattern. The artist then makes changes to bring out a suggested image. Dalí’s Head of Donkey resembles an insect when inverted; Gala’s Untitled/Decalcomania is asymmetrical, abstract and mysterious.




1998.10_Head-of-Donkey_web           1998 4_Untitled-by-Gala-Dali_web


Image Credits: detail of Exquisite Corpse (1932),  Dali-Dali-Breton-Hugo;  Head of Donkey (1936), Salvador Dalí and Untitled/Decalcomania (1936), Gala Dali.