Surreal Encounters: Collecting the Marvellous at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

Technically speaking, Surreal Encounters is what I’d call a stunner.    In particular the middle room on the ground floor of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, where they are showing Salvador Dali’s vast Landscape with a Girl Skipping Rope.

Salvador Dali Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art Surreal Encounters

Salvador Dali’s Landscape with a Girl Skipping Rope.   His Couple with their Heads Full of Clouds is on the left.

I’m no expert on the Surrealists but in terms of Scottish gallery exhibitions this is one of the strongest I have ever seen.   I would be surprised if it doesn’t pick up some five-star ratings and record crowds.

The Dali triptych  is hung  opposite some familiar friends from the gallery’s own collection and sets them off nicely.

Surreal Encounters Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

Familiar works from the Scottish National Galleries’ own Surrealist collection

With the lone imploring figure in the vast yellowy desert the huge Dali work is an overwhelming moment when you step in the room.

The brilliant May day lifted the spirits for the gallery preview.   So did Surreal Adventures, the outdoor play area brilliantly executed by the same folks whose work for the MC Escher show last year I profiled here.     It’s an ambitious step above the Escher maze and a startling showcase for the work of the design and installation company established by enterprising Edinburgh College of Art graduates.

Surreal Adventures Magritte Surreal Encounters Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

Surreal Adventures play area inspired by Surreal Encounters

The slide is inspired by the galleries’ Magritte’s painting The Magic Mirror.    Children seemed to love running through the framed doorways.   Not sure how comfortable the resin-concrete Chesterfield sofa is.     The exhibition includes Salvador Dali’s Mae West Lips Sofa but you can’t sit on it (unlike at the V&A exhibition of Surrealists a while back, which had a reproduction for punters to take a perch…)

The exhibition by all accounts has seen veteran curator Keith Hartley, a fond figure in the modern art scene and the gallery’s deputy director, call in some of the many favours he’s built up in his career.

It is themed around  pulling together works from four collectors:  Roland Penrose, Edward James, Gabrielle Kieller, and Ulla and Heiner Pietzsch, the latter couple in Edinburgh for the opening.   It  is put together in collaboration with the Museum Boignans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam (whose holdings include the Great Paranoic), and and the Hamburger Kunsthalle, and will travel on to both.

It includes 58 loans from the Pietszch collection, which the couple will be gifting to the German national collections once plans for a new national gallery of 20th Century art comes to fruition.

Works from their collection include Hans Bellmer’s La Poupee (the Doll) and  Picasso’s Femme aux Arabesques.

Hans Bellmer La Poupee Surreal Encounters Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

Hans Bellmer, La Poupee


Look out for Dali’s Lobster Telephone and enticing works by Magritte and a score of others.   Plenty to linger over in this summer show,  and perhaps advisable to get ahead of those summer crowds; it runs only until September 11.

Magrite Surreal Encounters Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

A Magritte medley