Dada and Surrealism Reviewed

Hayward Gallery

Hayward Gallery, 11 January – 27 March 1978

Dada and Surrealism Reviewed
This ambitious exhibition was structured around the ‘reviews’ or publications that were the principle platforms of the Dada and Surrealist movements. Works by Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia, Giorgio de Chirico, Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst and Joan Miro were shown alongside magazines including Documents, Litterature and La Revolution Surrealiste, and accompanied by found objects and books from the artists’ private collections. 

The exhibition was organised by a committee that included the surrealist artist and poet Roland Penrose – principle organiser of the London Surrealist exhibition in 1936 – and art historian David Sylvester, along with Dawn Ades, Alan Bowness, Michael Compton, Elizabeth Cowling, Roy Edwards, John Golding and George Melly.

A Vast and Labyrinthine Layout
Dada and Surrealism Reviewed featured more than 1,000 objects and artworks. The layout chosen for the exhibition was ‘deliberately crowded’, with many paintings hung two or three deep, and objects and sculptures displayed as in ‘cabinets of curiosities’. 

As David Sylvester explained, this was method of display that was characteristic of both the exhibitions staged by the surrealist, as well as their private apartments. Dada and Surrealism Reviewed was divided into 17 distinct sections that together traced the geographical and chronological development of both movements.

Draft layout for Hayward's upper galleries.

Print and Ephemera
Each section of the exhibition was introduced by a wall-montage consisting of reproduced material from each of the reviews, as well as associated pamphlets, posters and other printed matter. The exhibition’s designer Edward Wright – who had also worked on the 1971 Hayward Gallery exhibition Art in Revolution – made detailed hand-drawn plans of each of these montage areas. 

Edward Wright was responsible for all elements of the exhibition’s design, not least the logo, font, posters and badges, which took inspiration from the design and typography associated with both movements.

This exhibition guide was written by David Sylvester.

Press and Audience Response
Marcel Jean, a surrealist who leant works to the exhibition, was pleased with the press response – both positive and negative, to Dada and Surrealism Reviewed. Writing to the Arts Council’s Joanna Drew, he commented that the bad press put him in mind of the response to the London Surrealist exhibition of 1936: ‘It makes me feel young again’, he wrote.

Dada and Surrealism Reviewed received 188,655 visitors. An independent researcher was commissioned by the Arts Council to review the audience response to the exhibition. This report focused on the exhibition’s vast scale, which was considered by many visitors to be too large to take in during a single visit.

The report also charted the creative graffiti left in the toilets, much of which was inspired by the exhibition. It noted that 'a few visitors copied Duchamp's practice of signing ready-mades', with one gentleman signing a urinal.

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