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Objects of Desire: Surrealism and Design 1924 – Today

Delve into the dreamlike relationship between Surrealism and design in this century spanning celebration of Surrealist objects of desire.

A Vitra Design Museum Exhibition.

What to expect

Curated with Vitra Design Museum, the exhibition explores design from the birth of surrealism in 1924 to the current day; spanning classic Surrealist works of art and design as well as contemporary Surrealist responses. 

The exhibition uncovers how one of the 20th century's most influential movements came to impact design through its questioning of the conventional and its commitment to exploring the mind, unconscious and mystical. 

It brings together the best in Surrealist design, from furniture, interior design, fashion, photography and world-renowned artworks from Surrealist pioneers such as Salvador Dalí, Dora Maar, Man Ray, Leonora Carrington and Lee Miller, through to contemporary artists and designs, such as Schiaparelli, Dior, Björk.  

The result is an exhibition filled with playful, curious and poetic objects that uncover the rich history of Surrealism and its fascinating influence on design.

#ObjectsOfDesire

Exhibition photography by Andy Stagg @studiostagg

Wall plates no. 116 from the series Tema e Variazioni [Theme and Variations], after 1950, Piero Fornasetti, Silk print on porcelain. Fornasetti Archive

Hand Chair, about 1962, Pedro Friedeberg, Production this copy: c. 1965, Carved mahogany. Vitra Design Museum

Sarah Lucas, Cigarette Tits [Idealized Smokers Chest II], 1999. Chair, balls, cigarettes, bra, 78.74 x 49.53 x 52.71 cm (31 x 19 ½ x 20 ¾ in) © Sarah Lucas.

Schiaparelli, Look 6 Haute Couture, Spring/Summer 2021. Courtesy of Schiaparelli

BLESSbeauty Hairbrush, 2019 edition of 1999 design, Bless, beech; human hair. Vitra Design Museum

Book Online

Exhibition Highlights Tour with Tim Marlow

Saturday 28 January 2023, 10:00 – 10:45

Join the Design Museum Director Tim Marlow for a special tour of the exhibition. Tim will walk you through the significance of particular exhibits and share his thoughts on the Surrealist movement in relation to design.

The exhibition will be closed to the public until 10:30am. Please arrive at 10:00am for a prompt 10:15am start. The tour concludes at 10:45am and you’re welcome to enjoy the exhibition afterwards at your leisure.

Exhibition Highlights Tour with Kathryn Johnson

Saturday 4 February 2023, 10:00 – 10:45

Join the Design Museum Curator Kathryn Johnson for a special tour of the exhibition. Kathryn will present why certain pieces were selected to tell the story of Surrealism and design and share her insights into the movement and its relationship to design.

The exhibition will be closed to the public until 10:30am. Please arrive at 10:00am for a prompt 10:15am start. The tour concludes at 10:45am and you’re welcome to enjoy the exhibition afterwards at your leisure.

Exhibition Highlights Tour with Justin McGuirk

Saturday 11 February 2023, 10:00 – 10:45

Join the Design Museum Chief Curator Justin McGuirk for a special tour of the exhibition.

The exhibition will be closed to the public until 10:30am. Please arrive at 10:00am for a prompt 10:15am start. The tour concludes at 10:45am and you’re welcome to enjoy the exhibition afterwards at your leisure.

NEW OFFER: Combined tickets

You can now book our two paid exhibitions, Objects of Desire: Surrealism and Design 1924 – Today and WEIRD SENSATION FEELS GOOD: The World of ASMR, for a discounted price if you visit them on the same day.

Please note that the last entry to the galleries is at 16:30 (Sunday to Thursday) and 19:30 (Fridays and Saturdays).

Exhibition & lunch offer

Add a seasonal light lunch to your visit to the museum in our London Grade Coffee café. Using the season’s best ingredients, the café is offering a soup and a delicious focaccia toastie which can be enjoyed with a glass of organic wine, London-brewed beer or a soft drink for £14.

Available daily between 12:00 and 15:00, just add the lunch option to your basket when you book your exhibition ticket.

Members do not need to pre-book and can request the lunch on the day.

Ticket Information

Online booking is advised but tickets will also be available to buy at the door subject to availability. Please note that the last entry to the exhibition is 90 minutes before the museum closes.

Adult tickets from £16.80
Child tickets from £8.25
Concession tickets from £12.50
Student tickets from £12.50

Tickets are non-refundable and non-exchangeable. Visit our terms & conditions page for further information.

ACCESS
You can download the exhibition text in a large print format from the access information page.

Get closer with membership

Our members enjoy a whole year of discounts to our events, shops and café, access to private views, and free exhibition entry for an adult and a guest. With some excellent exhibitions coming up in 2023, including Ai Weiwei’s first foray into design, Skateboards and Saris, it’s an exciting time to join. Plus, every purchase supports the museum.

Emerging Designers Access Fund

A limited number of tickets are available through our Emerging Designers Access Scheme. If you are an emerging designer and facing financial barriers to attend, please register.

Discover

the Surrealist designs as signs

Inspired by our exhibition #ObjectsOfDesire, astrologer Lisa Stardust gives us a rundown of the new year and looks at the surrealist designs as zodiac signs.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

6 Surrealist Chairs from #ObjectsOfDesire

From a giant eye sculpture that doubles as a chair to one inspired by a child's game - Surrealist furniture comes in all shapes and form. Extravagant, mind-boggling and highly symbolic, here's our top picks of Surrealist chairs from #ObjectsOfDesire.

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

What is Surrealism and why it matters now

Curator Kathryn Johnson explains the story behind surrealism and its impact on design in this video produced in collaboration with Dezeen.

Watch time: 4 min 26 sec

Yasmina Atta: Afro-Surrealism

Delve into the world of fashion designer Yasmina Atta as she explores her inspirations, influences and ideas on modern day Surrealism with Ayoola Solarin, an arts and culture writer.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

10 Unmissable Highlights from #ObjectsOfDesire

A fully functioning lobster telephone, a fur bracelet and a chair designed mid-air - explore the 10 unmissable highlights from our exhibition.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

A Surrealist day out in London

Inspired by the fantastical and wacky world of Surrealism we’ve put together the perfect day out in London. Follow our fun guide of places to visit.

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Partners

Curated with: Vitra Design Museum

The Vitra Design Museum is one of the world's leading museums of design, located in the triangle of Germany, Switzerland and France. It is dedicated to the research and presentation of design, past and present, and examines design's relationship to architecture, art and everyday culture.

Global Sponsor: Hugo Boss

The HUGO BOSS Group is one of the leading companies in the upper premium segment of the apparel market that focuses on the development and marketing of premium fashion and accessories for men and women. In addition to the actual product range, HUGO BOSS is also known for its events, campaigns, international exhibitions and cooperations.

Supported by: Art Mentor Foundation

Art Mentor Foundation Lucerne considers itself a mentor of the arts. The nonprofit foundation was brought into being with the aim of supporting projects that are conducted in a professional manner who blaze new and innovative trails in one of the three grant areas: Visual Art, Music, and Cultural Education.

Supported by: Rocco Forte Hotels

Proud supporter of art and design, Rocco Forte Hotels has creativity and artistic heritage within the DNA of its design philosophy. Olga Polizzi’s creative approach to interior design, from handmade furniture to original artworks, can be seen and felt throughout all thirteen properties across Europe so that each hotel is utterly unique.

This exhibition has been made possible as a result of the Government Indemnity Scheme. The Design Museum would like to thank HM Government for providing Government Indemnity and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and Arts Council England for arranging the indemnity.

CATALOGUE

Surrealism & Design Now

Published to accompany the exhibition Objects of Desire: Surrealism and Design 1924 – Today, the publication celebrates Surrealism’s enduring legacy featuring groundbreaking fashion by Mary Katrantzou and Dior, as well as British designs by Tim Walker, Jonathan Trayte and Vince Fraser. Edited by Curator Kathryn Johnson and designed by Alexander Boxill Studio.

related events

Surrealism and Design: From Dalí to AI

Join our 3-part online Surrealism Design History course. Find out how Surrealism, an art and literary movement that began in the 1920s, came to shape the designed world.

Fashion and Surrealism: Draping Masterclass

Immerse yourself in the world of Haute Couture through this dynamic one-day draping masterclass which focuses on the playful and often unexpected detailing of Surrealist fashion.

Objects of Desire: Audio Described Tour

Join tour guide Andrew Mashigo for a curated audio described tour of Objects of Desire: Surrealism and Design 1924 – Today for blind and partially sighted visitors.

What's on

Exhibitions and Events

Discover what else is on including WEIRD SENSATION FEELS GOOD: The World of ASMR, workshops and events.

Background image: Salvador Dalí, Lobster Telephone, 1938. Photo West Dean College of Arts and Conservation. © Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí.

Exhibition photography: Andy Stagg @studiostagg.