In a sale expected to fetch £2.5 million ($3 million) taking place on December 15, Christie’s London will auction off 200 works from the Edward James Foundation—including world-famous Surrealist items such as Salvador Dalí’s lobster telephone and one of his Mae West lips sofas.
These particular Dalí works to be auctioned were created specifically for the poet and patron of Surrealist art Edward James, who, according to the Guardian, offered a monthly salary to Dalí in exchange for the artworks during a period in which the artist was struggling financially.
The lobster telephone, created in 1936 and estimated at £250,000 ($304,000), was playfully expounded upon in the artist’s 1942 autobiographical book, The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí: “I do not understand why, when I ask for a grilled lobster in a restaurant, I am never served a cooked telephone,” he wrote.
“I do not understand why champagne is always chilled,” he continued, “and why on the other hand telephones, which are habitually so frightfully warm and disagreeably sticky to the touch, are not also put in silver buckets with crushed ice around them.”
While the telephone will not be accompanied by an ice bucket, it remains a true example of Dalí’s oeuvre. He often invoked both the telephone and lobster as sexual objects in his practice, and the lobster in particular made many appearances throughout his work. In his 1938 Dictionnaire Abrégé du Surrealism, Dalí included a small drawing of the lobster telephone, under which he scribbled TÉLÉPHONE APHRODISIAQUE.
The Mae West lips sofa—one of five in existence—was not created for functional use: while beautiful, it is said to be “hideously” uncomfortable to sit on, as Dalí “modeled them off of particularly painful rocks on the beach at his Spanish home in Cadaqués,” reports The Guardian. The piece, commissioned by Edward James himself, has a high estimate of £400,000 ($486,400).
Auction proceeds will go towards the Edward James Foundation and the West Dean House in Sussex, James’ former home. In a statement, Andrew Waters of Christie’s London emphasized the late patron’s support of Dalí and key role in enabling Surrealist artists in their practices: “Edward James is best remembered for his brilliance in inspiring and empowering those around him, but his deserved reputation as a major patron of the Surrealists tells only part of the story.”
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