Artist Meret Oppenheim was born in Berlin 100 years ago today. In truth, Oppenheim’s connections with the city were never particularly strong; she left while still an infant and spent most of her life in Switzerland and Paris (and if we’re being technical, she was actually born in Charlottenburg, now very much a part of Berlin but not officially incorporated into the German capital until 1920). Nonetheless, Berlin is now honouring Oppenheim with a major retrospective for the first time since her death in 1985.
A few days ago I caught this exhibition, an eye-opener for anyone (and I include myself here) who knows little of Oppenheim’s work beyond her Surrealist objects, most notably Le Déjeuner en fourrure (the famous fur-lined tea-cup, saucer and spoon). In fact this totemic piece wasn’t included; whether it was a conscious curatorial omission or MoMA simply wouldn’t let it travel, it was all for the good as it allowed other works to shine. And there was much to take in – drawings, oils, sculptures, jewelry, even poetry, all arranged thematically rather than in rigid chronological formation. Many of the works are normally held in private collections, so this was a rare opportunity to appreciate the full range of Oppenheim’s creative endeavours.
Dreams were of central importance to Oppenheim, and even before she came into contact with the Surrealists she was absorbing the dream theories of C. G. Jung, an acquaintance of her father, later consulting with the Swiss psychoanalyst. She recorded her dreams in prose, eventually issuing a volume of these accounts which covered much of her life. Nonetheless she was insistent that her artworks were not informed by her dreams, despite their fanciful hypnagogic conjunctions. Instead, Oppenheim aimed to recreate the process of dreaming in the waking state.
More on the exhibition below (or here if you don’t see the video embedded):