The mannequin’s neck is ornamented by a garter belt that serves as a jewel and a brassiere. It sparkles, and mirrors silver-grey pattern on the mannequin’s long dress. Holding the body in what might be an uncomfortable tension, this glass-bead necklace attached to the nipples bears a resemblance to ethnic jewelry. The mannequin’s torso evokes not only commercial dummies with constricted waists - captured by Eugène Atget in his photographs of Paris shop windows of the 1920s - but also the ancient silhouette of the Venus de Milo.
Organized into several parts like a collage, the work continues the surrealist experimentation that made Oppenheim’s name in Paris in the 1930s, when Alberto Giacometti discovered and encouraged her. In 1938, during the International Exhibition of Surrealism partly conceived by Marcel Duchamp, sixteen mannequins occupied “Surrealist Street”. They were decked in ordinary objects and accessories of every kind by their respective creators, including Salvador Dalí, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Joan Miró and Man Ray. These emblematic objects were surprising to say the least, and they presented some of the movement’s central themes: tormented desire, thwarted pleasure, unconscious drives and impulses, and broken taboos.
Having all disappeared, only the photographs of these curious creatures can revive their memory. Though created later, Abendkleid mit Büstenhalter-Collier is an exception, a precious piece of evidence that combines fantasy with sophistication. It connects the artist’s surrealist practice with the spirit of Pop Art and New Realism, two movements that appeared in the 1960s.
This work holds a special status within the Collection Pictet. Because of its provocative nature, it is not permanently exhibited in the bank. But being a highly important piece, it is constantly requested by museums worldwide. It regularly appears in temporary exhibitions, and was included in the major retrospective presented in Berlin, Vienna and Lille in 2013 and 2014. In 2018, Abendkleid mit Büstenhalter-Collier is on dispaly at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, to recount the history of the sculpturing of the human body.