Méret Oppenheim (1913 – 1985) came to Paris in 1932 to study art and quickly became a part of the Surrealist movement. Emerging in the aftermath of World War I, Surrealism ushering in an artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that eschewed the rationality and order of the modern world. Once in Paris, Oppenheim ingratiated herself with the artists who dominated Surrealism, including Max Ernst, Salvador Dalí, Man Ray, and René Magritte. At a time when women mainly functioned as the subjects and muses of Surrealism, Oppenheim’s work critically addressed gender issues with a sense of wry wit, eroticism, and ambiguity. In her most famous work from the era, Object (1936), Oppenheim wrapped a teacup, saucer, and spoon in the tan fur of a Chinese gazelle. The work not only exemplified the Surrealist idea of presenting everyday things in unexpected ways to challenge reason but also reimagined a traditionally feminine object in a confounding and oddly erotic context.
Object went on to become an icon of the Surrealist movement, but its success overwhelmed Oppenheim and she distanced herself from the Surrealists, moving to Switzerland and training as an art conservator. She returned to artmaking in 1954, working in a variety of mediums, including painting, sculpture, and costume design, and continued address issues of individuality and femininity.
Oppenheim’s work was part of the landmark 1936 show Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. That same year, Oppenheim received her first solo exhibition in Basel, Switzerland. More recently, Oppenheim solo exhibitions have included Meret Oppenheim: Retrospective, Bank Austria Kunstforum, Vienna, 2013; Meret Oppenheim: Retrospective, Kunst Museum, Bern, Switzerland, 2006; Meret Oppenheim. From Breakfast in Fur and Back Again, Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg, 2003; Meret Oppenheim: A Different Retrospective, Galerie Krinzinger, Vienna, 1997; and Meret Oppenheim, Beyond the Teacup, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1996.