Meret Oppenheim: Tender Friendships

An open book into whose pages the shapes of hands have been cut. Gray gloves painted with red veins are visible through the cutouts. An identical pair of gloves rest next to the book.
Apr 26 to Sep 14, 2014

Surrealist artist Meret Oppenheim (1913–1985) is best known for the fur-lined teacup and saucer she made in 1936, but it represents just one facet of her provocative work. During her prolific career, she created sculpture, paintings, and drawings that explored themes of sensuality and desire, friendship and love, nature and culture, and reality and imagination.

This exhibition explores friendship as a source of inspiration and support. Inspired by the friendship between two 18th-century poets, Bettine Brentano and Karoline von Günderode, Oppenheim created paintings, prints, and poems dedicated to the two women, some of which are featured in the exhibition.

Many of the works on view are part of a recent donation to NMWA made by Vassar College art librarian Thomas Hill in honor of his friendship with late librarian of the Walker Art Center Rosemary Furtak. Tender Friendships includes Oppenheim’s witty Table with Bird’s Feet (1973), her Schoolgirl’s Notebook (1973), prints, photographs, and letters from the artist.

Oppenheim worked in many styles and mediums, including poetry and illustration, as depicted in the artist’s books Sansibar (1981) and Caroline (1985)—both of which are showcased in the exhibition.

Surrealist sculpture and functional occasional table is shown from above at a high angle; the work features realistic cast bronze crane legs holding a round wooden, gold-plated tabletop.

Meret Oppenheim, Table with Bird’s Feet, 1983, Top: wood, carved and gold-plated; feet: bronze, 25 1/2 x 27 1/2 x 19 3/4 in., Private collection; © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ProLitteris, Zurich; Photography by Suzanne Khalil; Image courtesy of Lisa Wenger and Martin A. Bühler, Meret Oppenheim Estate

Exhibition Sponsors

Meret Oppenheim: Tender Friendships is organized by the National Museum of Women in the Arts. The exhibition is made possible by Margaret M. Johnston and the members of NMWA. Further support is provided by the Embassy of Switzerland, Washington, D.C., and the family of Meret Oppenheim.