The Menil Collection is renowned for its permanent (but ever-changing) Surrealism installation. Residing in these dark, gray-walled galleries are some of the world’s outstanding and most haunting works, drawn from the museum’s permanent collection of more than 300 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper. Among these are important examples of innovative Dadaist and Surrealist techniques such as automatic drawing, collage, decalomania, and frottage.
“Like the chance encounter
of a sewing machine and
an umbrella on an
–Comte de Lautréamont
Three artist form the collection's core: Victor Brauner, Max Ernst, and René Magritte. Other Surrealists at the Menil include Hans Arp, Giorgio de Chirico, Joseph Cornell, Salvador Dalí, Marcel Duchamp, Alberto Giacometti, Paul Klee, Wifredo Lam, Roberto Matta, Joan Miró, Meret Oppenheim, Francis Picabia, Yves Tanguy, and Dorothea Tanning. Surrealist photographs include vintage prints by Hans Bellmer, along with works by Brassais, André Kertész, and Man Ray.
Complementing this collection is Witnesses to a Surrealist Vision, a “room of wonders” within the Surrealism galleries displaying the types of exotic curiosities that captivated and inspired these artists. The 200 objects on view range from ceremonial costumes and masks to bird specimens, surgical tools, astronomical instruments, and fetish figures.
The Menil’s Surrealist holdings extend to the museum library, with its significant holdings of rare publications by Dalí, Duchamp, Kurt Schwitters, and Tanguy. The rare book collection also contains a number of original sources from which the Surrealists took their inspiration, including a 1687 edition of François Rabelais’s Les songes drolatiques de Pantagruel.