Also referred to as the Aphrodisiac Telephone, the Lobster Telephone is a surrealist object created by Salvador Dali. It was established in 1936 specifically for an English poet known as Edward James, a leading collector of a bizarre kind of art. It was one of the hilarious objects spawned by the surrealist movement. It was commissioned by Sir Edward James, a wealthy patron of the arts and a leading supporter of the surrealists. The artwork displays a black telephone with a lobster resting on top of its handset. The lobster sits in the place of the receiver. The piece, therefore, features a traditional working telephone as well as a lobster that is made of plaster. It is produced on a six by 12 by 6.6-inch canvas. Like an authentic surrealist art item, it is made from a combination of usually not associated things. The two objects are combined to come up with an object that is both menacing and playful. According to Dali, combining such objects could help reveal the hidden desires of the unconscious.
For Salvador Dali, the lobster and the telephone feature strong sexual connotations. The telephone was not a relatively new object in the art scene at the time. It appeared in paintings in the late 1930s, like the Mountain Lake. The lobster was also portrayed in a series of drawings and designs. At the time, the lobster was closely associated with erotic pleasure and pain. Dali also created a multi-media experience known as the Dream of Venus. The Dream of Venus portrayed, in part, live nude models in costumes. The costumes were made from fresh seafood. It was photographed by Horst P. Horst and George Platt Lynes. In the image, the lobster was used to cover the model's sexual organs. This wasn't something new for Dali because, according to him, there was a close analogy between sex and food. In the Lobster telephone, he does something almost similar. The sexual parts that are located in its tail are placed directly over the telephone's mouthpiece.
The telephone emerged from a conjunction between the ideal of the surrealist object. The surrealist object is a 1931 creation by Salvador Dali. Dali explored interior designs in attempts to create a new means of expressing his surrealist ideas. The Lobster Telephone came up as a result of Dali's exploration of paranoiac-critical environments, surrealistic assemblages, and furniture. As a result of the Lobster Telephone, Dali gained recognition for single-handedly bringing a new dimension into the aging surrealism. Over the years, a lot of speculation have been made about the meaning of the Lobster telephone. One of the thoughts was that the piece was a statement of luxury. This theory suggests that both the phone and the lobster represent upper-class living, especially when the piece was created.
Other theories suggest that the artwork symbolizes the contract between a prehistoric creature (the lobster) and modern technology (the telephone). However, most people agree to the speculations that the piece was simply a result of Salvador Dali's humor. He found pairing the two objects with no relationship merely amusing. In an attempt to explain his creation, Dali stated that he could not understand why, when ordering a grilled lobster at a restaurant, he was never served a boiled phone instead. That's why most people believe that the piece signifies the humor of the famous artist. The Lobster telephone is a sculpture created using steel, plaster, rubber, resin, and paper. The phone is made using plaster and rubber. It also features steel on the numbered part. Resin and paper are used as the overall medium. In other words, the telephone is a real one while the lobster is made of plaster.
Salvador Dali's Inspirations behind the Lobster Telephone
One of the most significant influences for Dali was the surrealist filmmaker Luis Bunuel. Dali found Bunuel to be a fellow thinker. They both believed in one rule. The rule was that there must be no explanation for any ideas that are presented either in film or photography. This explains why Dali took two items not related and did an artwork for which he gave no severe explanation. He was also a staunch believer in the theories of one Sigmund Freud. He especially took to heart the sexual representations of Freud. According to Freud, the vessels were feminine and wild animals were masculine. Salvador Dali incorporated this theory in most of his pieces, including the one with the nude models and partially in the Lobster Telephone.
Other Works featuring Telephones by Salvador Dali
Before the Lobster Telephone, Salvador used both the telephone and the lobster in other pieces. However, after the Lobster telephone's success, The Telephone became an inspiration in several of his future compositions. Some of these pieces include:
In 1935, Salvador Dali was commissioned by the American Weekly magazine to create a series of drawings that were based on his impressions of the city of New York. One of the creations he came up with was called "new york dream-man finds lobster in place of the phone."
In the year 1938, he was also contributed an entry under the title, "Telephone Aphrodisiaque. A small drawing of the telephone accompanied it. The receiver of the telephone was placed by a lobster that was surrounded by files. The same drawing is contained in 'The secret life of Salvador Dali."
Location and Exhibitions
The original Lobster telephone is currently displayed at the Salvador Dali, Gala-Salvador Dali Foundation/DACS in London. Dali managed to produce at least five versions of the original Lobster Telephone, which features a color vision of the original one. One of the five was on display at the Dali Universe in London. Another one is currently located at the Museum fur Kummunikation Frankfurt. The Edward James Foundation owns the third one. The fourth and the fifth are situated in the National Gallery of Australia and the collection of Tate Modern in London.
Dali also created an offwhite version of the lobster telephone (6 of them). They own the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Salvador Dali Museum in Florida, the Centro Cultural de Belem in Portugal, the Johannesburg Art Gallery in South Africa, and the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. The Edward James Foundation owned the off-white Lobster Telephone hat was sold to a foreign country in 2018. However, Michael Ellis, the Arts Minister, placed a temporary export ban on the piece to allow British collectors to match the price at which the part was sold. By the end of the process, the phone was finally acquired by the National Galleries of Scotland. It is currently displayed at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.