German-born, Swiss Surrealist artist and photographer, Méret Elisabeth Oppenheim was born on 6 October 1913 in Berlin. She was raised by her grandparents in Switzerland during WW1. At the age of 18 Oppenheim went to Paris where she enrolled at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere. She presented her 3D objects to the Surrealist Exhibition (1933) which helped establish her as a leading figure in the Surrealist art movement.
- On one occasion, Oppenheim staged a banquet in which a nude female formed the centerpiece of the table decoration.
- In her paintings and sculptures, she often explored female sexuality. This typified much of her later work in which ordinary everyday objects were transformed into articles with fetishistic or sado-masochistic undertones.
- Oppenheim’s best known piece is [Object or (Breakfast in Fur)] which was purchased by Alfred Barr for the collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York and included in the museum’s first Surrealist exhibition Fantastic Art: Dada and Surrealism in 1936.
Oppenheim kept careful notes about which patrons and colleagues she liked and where her works ended up. She died in Basel, Switzerland on 15 November 1985 at the age of 72. An archive of most of Oppenheim’s artwork has been entrusted to institutions in Bern, Switzerland, including the Museum of Fine Arts and the National Library.
- At Oppenheim’s acceptance speech in 1975 upon receiving the City of Basel Art Award, she declared “Freedom is not given to you — you have to take it.”
And I say, “If you do not think that this is your ‘cup of tea’ – you might need to fake it.”
“Is It Art?”