The sculpture Abendkleid mit Büstenhalter-Collier (1968) [Evening Dress with Brassiere-Necklace] is an oddity within Collection Pictet, and acts as something of an ambassadress. Meret Oppenheim’s only mannequin (1913-1985) is not exhibited permanently in the lounges of the bank because of its denuded appearance. However, out of the whole Collection, it is the work most requested by museums and cultural institutions around the world.
Created in the “surrealist object” vein, in the style of mannequins by Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray and others (unfortunately now all lost), Abendkleid mit Büstenhalter-Collier is a precious testament to that practice consisting in assembling all kinds of accessories and everyday objects in a surprising, humorous and sometimes mysterious way.
Loaned many times, Oppenheim’s mannequin has already travelled many kilometres since it first appeared in Bern (Galerie Martin Krebs, 1968). Its surrealist essence makes it a favourite piece for thematic exhibitions like Surreale Dinge (Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, 2011), where it was shown alongside Salvador Dalí’s Venus de Milo with Drawers (1936/1964), Man Ray’s Main Ray (1935/1971) and many others.
Growing interest in Meret Oppenheim’s work has also given rise to several retrospective exhibitions since 2006, Meret Oppenheim - Retrospektive, mit ganz wenig viel (Kunstmuseum Bern), for which the mannequin was systematically loaned. Similar presentations followed at the Kunstforum in Vienna and the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin in 2013, and at the LaM in Lille in 2014.
More recently, the presence of Abendkleid mit Büstenhalter-Collier in the exhibition Swiss Pop (Mamco, Geneva, 2017) placed it back in the era in which it was created—the 1960s—and offered a reminder of the Swiss creative effervescence that echoed the Pop Art movement. During its most recent trip, to New York, the work took part in Like Life: Sculpture, Color, and the Body (1300-Now) to recount the history of the sculpture of the human body (The Met Breuer, New York, 2018).
Long reduced to the image of a muse, Oppenheim has established herself as a central figure of the surrealist movement, one who relentlessly explored the conditions of women (identity, sexuality, exploitation) in a way that was liberated and full of fantasy.
Photos: Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, 2011; Kunstmuseum Bern, 2012; LaM Lille, 2014; Mamco Genève, 2017; The Met Breuer, 2018; Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, 2020
Photo credits: SURREAL OBJECTS. THREE-DIMENSIONAL WORKS FROM DALÍ TO MAN RAY, exhibition view, © Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt 2011, photo: Norbert Miguletz. / Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art / FANTASTIC WOMEN. SURREAL WORLDS FROM MERET OPPENHEIM TO FRIDA KAHLO, Exhibition View, © Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, 2020, photo: Norbert Miguletz