Surrealism became the most talked-about art movement of 2022, almost by accident. The delay of the 2021 Venice Biennale due to the Covid pandemic gave its artistic director Cecilia Alemani more time to include historic works of art which the event’s tight production schedule usually precludes. She filled her show with Surrealist works of art and with artists inspired by its legacy. Serendipitously, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice and the Museum Barberini in Potsdam had planned a major exhibition, ‘Surrealism and Magic: Enchanted Modernity’, which coincided. Meanwhile, ‘Surrealism Beyond Borders’ — a magnum opus of an exhibition by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Tate Modern — opened in New York in October 2021 and in London in February 2022, after an unusually lengthy seven-year gestation.
Research prepared for Apollo by London-based research firm Art Tactic shows just how much the market for Surrealist work boomed at auction last year. So there was anticipation earlier this month for Christie’s Art of the Surreal and Sotheby’s Surrealism & Its Legacy auctions.
Our latest analysis in the April issue of Apollo looks at the rise of Surrealism and the current state of its critical reputation and market. Here, Jane Morris speaks to six leading figures in the field about the contemporary appeal of a movement approaching its 100th anniversary.
Emmanuel Di Donna
The Surrealist world is a magical world – it is filled with strangeness and dreams, but it is also formally inventive. It is about language, new painting techniques, new photography techniques. It pushed the boundaries of art and has had an influence on almost everything that came afterwards.
There have always been people who collected Surrealism from the 1960s and ’70s onwards: sophisticated collectors who started buying early, when the work wasn’t expensive and who often got to know the artists. Since the mid 2000s there has been a renewed interest in Surrealism. Americans have come into the market – for example, for Magritte. If you look at the Magritte that recently sold for £5.6m (Souvenir de voyage, 1958), it sold in 2009 for $1m and for $640,000 in 2000. So, you can see the progression.
The market for Surrealism will continue to grow depending on whether great works come to market. The centenary next year is going to be marked by a number of big shows and that will help it strengthen.
Emmanuel Di Donna is the founder of Di Donna Galleries, New York.