The Man in a Diving Suit Who Does Not Dive

The Victoria and Albert Museum’s exhibition, ‘Surreal Things: Surrealism and Design’, opens on March 29th. Becky Conekin looks forward to it.

In 1937 Vogue attempted to explain to its readers what Surrealism was. It told them that the man pictured was ‘Mr Salvador Dali’, sporting his signature moustache, a fencing mask and an epée. It clarified, though, that this man was not a fencer, but was dressed as such because he was a ‘Surrealist’, and proceeded to define a Surrealist as ‘a man who likes to dress as a fencer, but does not fence; a Surrealist is also a man who likes to wear a diving suit but does not dive’, (a reference to an incident earlier that year in which Dali had attempted to give a speech wearing a diving suit and had barely escaped asphyxiation).

Perhaps Vogue’s was one of the defin­itions used by the curators of the V&A’s new exhibition ‘Surreal Things’, for Dali plays a large part in this show. Not only are his famous Mae West lips sofa and ‘Lobster Tele­phone’ (Telephone-Homard, 1938),  featured, but also jewellery he designed, and his sequence for Alfred Hitchcock’s film, Spellbound (1945).

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