Art Strategies

Class 2: A lobster on the telephone

The art work I’ll cover here is Lobster Telephone by Salvador Dali.

Lobster Telephone 1936 Salvador Dal? 1904-1989 Purchased 1981
Lobster Telephone 1936 Salvador Dali 1904-1989 Purchased 1981

The work was created by Dali in 1936 for the English poet Edward James, a leading collector of surrealist art.

As Dali once wrote himself in The Secert Life which contains the following:

I do not understand why, when I ask for a grilled lobster in a restaurant, I am never served a cooked telephone; I do not understand why champagne is always chilled and why on the other hand telephones, which are habitually so frightfully warm and disagreeably sticky to the touch, are not also put in silver buckets with crushed ice around them.

Telephone frappé, mint-coloured telephone, aphrodisiac telephone, lobster-telephone, telephone sheathed in sable for the boudoirs of sirens with fingernails protected with ermine, Edgar Allan Poe telephones with a dead rat concealed within, Boecklin telephones installed inside a cypress tree (and with an allegory of death in inlaid silver on their backs), telephones on the leash which would walk about, screwed to the back of a living turtle … telephones … telephones … telephones …[1]

When I first look at it, this work is really fun, playful and brilliantly designed, and really well-made, the plaster materials made the lobster looked so real.What lobster has to do with telephone, well, nothing, right? Surrealism like to put irrelevant things together in order to create something createful and disturbing at same time, which can stimulate the unconscious mind. The contract between the lobster and the telephone is very interesting, since we don’t normally connect those pre-exsited things like grilled lobster and the decent old-fashion telephone. However, linking them together with this piece of art work just didn’t seem “too much”, or “heavy”, I suppose it is also because of this similarity of the nature shape of the lobster and telephone handle. This wouldn’t be so brilliant if it is a…let’s say, a big fat watermelon on the phone. Personally speaking, what made this so good is how Dali manage to create this interesting apart from reality combination, yet still preserve a little “intimacy” feeling as seeing something also resemble reality, not let to let people feel too distant.

The  interacting part is also interesting, as the user who pick up the phone would seems like talking to a lobster. And the lobster with knife and outstrips seems terrifying, however a red lobster is a dead lobster and therefore powerless to do harm.

As Freud has such influence on Surrealism, sex is a topic almost impossible to avoid when it comes to surrealist object. Lobster and telephones, usually associated with erotic pleasure or pain, and have strong sexual connotations for Dali. When Dalí’s telephone was first exhibited in 1936 it was called Aphrodisiac Telephone. And a  lobster was used by the artist to cover the female sexual organ of his models.


And they also in certain paintings of the late 1930s such as Mountain Lake

Mountain Lake 1938 Salvador Dalí 1904-1989 Purchased 1975
Mountain Lake 1938 Salvador Dali­ 1904-1989 Purchased 1975

In 1939 Dali created a multi-media experience named Dream of Venus, and consisted in part of dressing live nude models in costumes made of fresh seafood.dali-worldfairdream_venus_set

Food and sex, which are two basic human need, Dali often drew a close analogy between them. In Lobster Telephone, now it is not such a coincidence that the mouthpiece is located to the lobster’s tail, where the sexual part is located.



Salvador Dalí’s Lobsters by nancy frazier—Surrealism-v12.mp4?pubId=1854890877&videoId=3495862309001

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