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Dali’s Lobster Telephone saved for the nation

The £850,000 artwork is one of the most famous of the Surrealism movement.

The National Galleries of Scotland met an auction sale price to secure Dali’s Lobster Telephone (Greg Macvean/PA)
The National Galleries of Scotland met an auction sale price to secure Dali’s Lobster Telephone (Greg Macvean/PA)

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

The sculpture, one of the most recognisable artworks of the Surrealism movement, has been acquired by the National Galleries of Scotland after matching its auction sale price of more than £850,000.

The purchase was possible after the UK Government imposed a temporary export bar on the piece to give buyers a chance to keep it in the UK.

Lobster Telephone will go on display at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh thanks to cash from the Henry and Sula Walton Fund (£753,000) and Art Fund (£100,000).

The sculpture was made in 1938 for Edward James, Dali’s main patron in the 1930s.

Dali’s Lobster Telephone typifies the spirit of the movement in its witty, subversive eccentricity Stephen Deuchar, Art Fund

Eleven of the plaster lobster receivers were made to fit telephones at his homes in London and West Sussex.

Commissioned from London design firm Green & Abbott, four were painted red and seven were painted white. Eight of the artworks can be found in museum collections around the world.

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 alteration – were popular among the Surrealists, but are now incredibly rare.

“They turned convention upside-down, saying that anything could be art, and that art and life were not separate.

“Dali created something incredibly rich, imaginative and funny 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.

“We’re immensely grateful to the Walton Fund and the Art Fund for their help in acquiring the work.”

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Lobster Telephone is on show in Edinburgh (Greg Macvean/PA)

Henry Walton was a professor of Psychiatry at the University of Edinburgh and Sula Walton a renowned child psychiatrist.

Passionate devotees of the arts, they established a fund to help the National Galleries of Scotland acquire major works of modern art.

Stephen Deuchar, director of Art Fund, added: “Dali’s Lobster Telephone is amongst the most famous of all Surrealist objects, typifying the spirit of the movement in its witty, subversive eccentricity.

“Art Fund is proud to help the National Galleries of Scotland add this important work of art to their internationally renowned Surrealism collection.”

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