Dalí lobster telephone to remain in United Kingdom after Scottish buyer found

Lawrence Kim
December 20, 2018

In late 2016, the white Lobster Telephone was sold at auction to a private buyer overseas, but an export deferral order imposed by the government enabled the National Galleries of Scotland to match the £853,000 price.

The white sculpture has been bought using part of a trust fund set up to help pay for major new acquisitions for the Scottish National Gallery of Modern.

The art work consists of an ordinary, working telephone, with a plaster lobster resting on the receiver.

The lobster phone was made in 1938, one of 11 commissioned by Edward James, the eccentric and wealthy patron of surrealist artists.

James was born in 1907 at his family's summer house, Greywalls, at Gullane, in East Lothian.

Nearly all of them are in museum collections around the world, including a red one owned by Tate Modern and a white one in the collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

The Tate Modern in London has a red version on a black telephone.

The Edward James Foundation put the item up for sale expecting to earn anywhere between £150,000 and £250,000 but saw their estimations blown out of the water by a considerable margin.

Simon Groom, director of Modern and Contemporary Art at the National Galleries of Scotland, said: 'Object sculptures - where the artist takes an existing, manufactured object and transforms it with a slight addition or adjustment - were popular among the Surrealists, but are now incredibly rare.

The National Galleries already has Surrealist work by René Magritte, Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí, Paul Delvaux, Toyen, Yves Tanguy, Max Ernst, Leonora Carrington and Alberto Giacometti, as well as Dali, in its collection.

While NGS raised £100,000 to win the item, the significant backing of the Henry and Sula Walton Fund sealed the deal as they gave the remaining £753,000.

He said object sculptures were popular among the Surrealists but were now incredibly rare.

One of Salvador Dali's famous lobster telephones will go on display in Scotland this week after being saved for the nation.

"Dalí created something incredibly rich, imaginative and amusing with the most economical of means".

'This type of work had a huge impact on later artists, including Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst. Others are held in collections in Australia, Portugal, the Netherlands, Germany, South Africa and the United States. One is in a private collection overseas.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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