Oppenheim’s fur-lined teacup is perhaps the single most notorious Surrealist object. Its subtle perversity was inspired by a conversation between Oppenheim, Pablo Picasso, and the photographer Dora Maar at a Paris café. Admiring Oppenheim’s fur-trimmed bracelets, Picasso remarked that one could cover just about anything with fur. “Even this cup and saucer,” Oppenheim replied.
In the 1930s, many Surrealist artists were arranging found objects in bizarre combinations that challenged reason and summoned unconscious and poetic associations. Object —titled Le Déjeuner en fourrure (Lunch in fur) by the Surrealist leader André Breton—is a cup-and-saucer set that was purchased at a Paris department store and lined with the pelt of a Chinese gazelle. The work highlights the specificities of sensual pleasure: fur may delight the touch, but it repels the tongue. And a cup and spoon, of course, are made to be put in the mouth.
Following his inclusion of the work in MoMA’s 1936–37 exhibition Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism, Alfred H. Barr, Jr., the Museum’s director, remarked, “Few works of art in recent years have so captured the popular imagination.... The ‘fur-lined tea set’ makes concretely real the most extreme, the most bizarre improbability. The tension and excitement caused by this object in the minds of tens of thousands of Americans have been expressed in rage, laughter, disgust or delight.”
Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)
Imagine drinking from this cup! To make this sculpture, Meret Oppenheim bought a teacup, saucer, and spoon from a store and covered them with gazelle fur. By doing this, she transformed these everyday objects into art. How would you change a regular object into a work of art?
Gallery label from 2019, for kids