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Albert Square and the ‘Surrealist Phantom’

Manchester Art Gallery sends woman with roses on her face into Albert Square: she’s an Angel of Anarchy

Published on September 22nd 2009.


Albert Square and the ‘Surrealist Phantom’

In 1936, Salvador DalÍ collaborated with fellow surrealist Sheila Legge to stage a surrealist happening in Trafalgar Square. Legge appeared as The Phantom of Sex Appeal dressed in a long white satin dress, her face completely obscured by paper roses and ladybirds. Photographs of this event showing pigeons perching on the Phantom’s arms have become an iconic surrealist image.

Following Legge’s appearance as the Surrealist Phantom in Trafalgar Square, she wandered the exhibition, carrying a pork chop in one hand, and an artificial leg in the other, but the pork chop had to be abandoned on account of the heat.

To promote Manchester Art Gallery’s new exhibition Angels of Anarchy: Women Artists and Surrealism the gallery is staging a re-enactment of the ‘Surrealist Phantom’ in Albert Square, Manchester on Wednesday 23 September at 2.30pm.

Further surprise appearances are expected at the gallery throughout the exhibition: check out angelsofanarchy from Saturday 26 September to watch the re-enactment online.

Manchester Art Gallery is also inviting the public to upload their own random acts of surrealism to the website. The most entertaining acts of surrealism will be awarded surreal goodie bags at the end of the exhibition.

The original staging of the ‘Surrealist Phantom’ took place to coincide with the International Surrealist Exhibition that was held at the New Burlington Galleries in London – an event that became the model for international exhibitions throughout the 20th Century.

The exhibition was organised by the British Surrealist group including Roland Penrose, Herbert Read and ELT Mesens and was attended by around 23,000 visitors including some of surrealism’s most famous names such as Andre Breton, Paul Eluard and Man Ray.

Following Legge’s appearance as the Surrealist Phantom in Trafalgar Square, she wandered the exhibition, carrying a pork chop in one hand, and an artificial leg in the other, but the pork chop had to be abandoned on account of the heat.

It was not the only surreal stunt to take place during the exhibition. Dylan Thomas wandered the event with teacups full of boiled string, politely enquiring, “Do you like it weak or strong?” Salvador Dali delivered a lecture while dressed in a deep-sea diving suit, with two dogs on a leash in one hand, and a billiard cue in the other. Dali had to be rescued just minutes into his speech to prevent him from suffocating within the helmet.

Angels of Anarchy: Women Artists and Surrealism is at Manchester Art Gallery from 26 September 2009 – 10 January 2010. Tickets cost £6 (£4 concessions, with free entry for under 18s and Manchester Art Gallery Friends). For more information visit angelsofanarchy or call 0161 235 8888

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EspritSeptember 22nd 2009.

The Surrealist Phantom was caught on video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96slLM_vKTE

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