McMullen Museum of Art Boston College


Press Release: Accommodations of Desire: Surrealist Works on Paper Collected by Julien Levy

New England Premiere: Works by Key Surrealist Artiss:
Accommodations of Desire: Surrealist Works on Paper Collected by Julien Levy
January 15 through March 24, 2005

CHESTNUT HILL, MA (12-1-04) — The McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College will host the New England premiere of Accommodations of Desire: Surrealist Works on Paper Collected by Julien Levy, which will be on display from January 15 through March 24, 2005.

This national traveling exhibition includes over 100 drawings, collages, prints, watercolors and photographs by key artists of the Surrealist movement, collected by the late Julien Levy—one of the twentieth century’s most influential art dealers.
“The McMullen is pleased to present this exhibition of Surrealist works collected by the pioneering New York art dealer and avant-garde impresario Julien Levy,” said McMullen Museum Director and Professor of Art History Nancy Netzer. “Levy’s innovative enterprise as revealed in the exhibition inspires insight into the complex weave of aesthetic, social and economic history in America of the 1930s and 1940s.”
Surrealism, which dominated modern art in the 1930s and 1940s, attempted to reconcile everyday reality and the world of dreams into a superreality, or surreality (sur being French for “on” or “above”). Levy described the genre as a melding of dream, metaphor, fetishism, nonsense and play. His passion for this art exceeded professional protocol. One observer described the preeminent art dealer and collector as “militant” about the movement whose cause he advanced through his New York gallery.

He was dedicated to the acquisition of surrealist art—including books, paintings, sculpture, toys, seashells, photographs, drawings, records, prints, cabaret posters, chess boards, and even a Victorian circus automaton.

The 115 works comprising this exhibition testify to Levy’s ardor for the Surrealist movement and its many members. More than merely selling Surrealism, Levy lived it. As revealed in his personal mementos and in works endearingly inscribed to him, Levy was an intimate of the artists he represented. He collaborated with them, making surrealist films, composing a surrealist history, and even initiating a surrealist funhouse for the 1939 New York World’s Fair.

The exhibition title comes from one of Salvador Dalí’s most famous images, Accommodations of Desire—a painting that Levy once owned and counted among his favorites. In presenting Levy’s personal collection, the exhibition explores not only the dealer’s historic role in the promotion of Surrealism, but also his zeal and affinity for the concepts and artists of this movement. [MEDIA NOTE: Exhibition images available upon request from the McMullen Museum: call Naomi Blumberg at (617) 552-4676.]

Public Opening Event A public event to celebrate the opening of the exhibition will be held at the McMullen Museum on Tuesday, January 25, 2005 from 7:30-9:30 p.m. It will include a dessert reception, exhibition viewing and music by BC bOp! —a popular campus jazz band—under the direction of BC Band Director Sebastian Bonaiuto. An opening ceremony will be held at 8 p.m. [NOTE: To arrange attendance, call 617-552-8587 or email]

Julien Levy (1906–1981) A renowned New York art dealer, Levy was a member of Harvard University’s early generation of trained museum professionals whose collective accomplishments proved critical to the dissemination of modernist culture in America. The Harvard circle embraced and promoted new disciplines in the museum: film, architecture, and industrial design. Opening his gallery in 1931 in the midst of the Depression, and closing in 1949 with the country on the verge of postwar prosperity, Levy’s endeavor flourished during the very years that the center of the cultural avant-garde was shifting from Paris to New York.

Championing and representing Surrealism through its formative years in New York, Levy was a conduit for many vital aesthetic changes that had originated in Europe. With the prestigious American photographer and dealer Alfred Stieglitz as his mentor, Levy began by dealing in Surrealist photography, a movement that favored psychological complexity over pictorial clarity. Quickly realizing that he would be unable to support himself by selling only photographs, he turned to selling paintings. Levy ultimately exhibited and sold a vast range of media, as is evident in the list of artists to whom he gave first New York exhibitions: Eugene Berman, Joseph Cornell, Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, Léonor Fini, Dorothea Tanning, Roberto Matta and Arshile Gorky.

A number of the works in the exhibition are by these artists Levy promoted. A key section explores Surrealism in photography featuring works by Eugène Atget, Brassaï, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, André Kertész, Dora Maar and Man Ray, among many others.

Tanning once said, “Of all the gallery activity on Fifty-Seventh Street, where everything happened in those days, it was the Julien Levy Gallery that was truly making art history, the place where it was ‘at.’”

McMullen Museum of Art

The McMullen Museum is renowned for organizing interdisciplinary exhibitions that ask new questions and break new ground in the display and scholarship of the works on view. It serves as a dynamic educational resource for all of New England as well as the national and the international community. The Museum displays its notable permanent collection and mounts exhibitions of international scholarly importance from all periods and cultures of the history of art.

The Charles S. and Isabella V. McMullen Museum of Art was named in 1996 in honor of the late parents of Boston College benefactor, trustee and art collector John J. McMullen. In keeping with the University’s central teaching mission, the Museum’s exhibitions are accompanied by scholarly catalogues and related public programs. The 10th anniversary of the formal reopening of the Museum was marked in 2003-04.

McMullen Museum Hours and Tours Admission to the McMullen Museum is free; it is handicapped accessible and open to the public. The Museum is located in Devlin Hall on the Chestnut Hill campus of Boston College, at 140 Commonwealth Avenue.

Through May, the McMullen Museum hours are as follows: Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. The Museum will be closed on Monday, January 17, 2005.

Group tours may be arranged upon request, by calling (617) 552-8587. For directions, parking and program information, visit the web site at or call (617) 552-8100.

Exhibition Organizer

Accommodations of Desire: Surrealist Works on Paper Collected by Julien Levy is organized and circulated by Curatorial Assistance Traveling Exhibitions, Los Angeles, and is curated by Ingrid Schaffner and Colin Westerbeck. Drawings and prints, unless otherwise noted, have been lent by the Jean Farley Levy Estate. Photographs have been lent by David Raymond, New York. The accompanying color catalogue includes essays by the curators. The exhibition has been underwritten by Boston College with major support from the Patrons of the McMullen Museum of Art.