Dali's lobster telephone 'saved for the nation'

Salvador Dalí and Edward James, Lobster Telephone (1938) Image copyright National Galleries of Scotland
Image caption The Lobster Telephone will go on display at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh

One of the world's most famous Surrealist art works has been bought by the National Galleries of Scotland to stop it leaving the country.

Salvador Dali's Lobster Telephone was sold at auction but was "saved for the nation" after UK museums were given the chance to match the sale price.

The famous sculpture will now go on display at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh.

It was bought for £853,000, most of which came from a private fund.

Image copyright Jean DIEUZAIDE
Image caption Salvador Dali was famous for his Surrealist art

Dali's sculpture is one of the most instantly recognisable pieces of Surrealism, the art movement that explored the world of dreams and the subconscious mind.

The art work consists of an ordinary, working telephone, with a plaster lobster resting on the receiver.

It is one of 11 lobster telephones made for Dali's patron Edward James in the 1930s.

James was born in 1907 at his family's summer house, Greywalls, at Gullane, in East Lothian.

His family was immensely wealthy, owning a vast estate at West Dean in West Sussex

The lobster receivers were made to fit to telephones at James's house in Wimpole Street, central London, and at West Dean.

Four of the lobsters were painted red, and seven were painted white.

The Lobster Telephones are now almost all in museum collections around the world.

Image copyright CARL DE SOUZA
Image caption Another of the Lobster Telephones is in the Tate Modern in London

The Tate Modern in London has a red version on a black telephone.

The white version acquired by the National Galleries of Scotland had remained with the Edward James Foundation in West Sussex.

It was sold at auction but because of its "artistic and historical importance" it was subject to an export licence deferral.

This allowed the National Galleries to match the amount it had sold for.

The Henry and Sula Walton Fund provided £753,000 of the money, with the rest coming from a grant from the Art Fund, the national fundraising charity for art.

Simon Groom, director of modern and contemporary art at the National Galleries of Scotland, said: "This major acquisition cements our position as one of the world's greatest collections of Surrealist art."

He said object sculptures were popular among the Surrealists but were now incredibly rare.

"Dali created something incredibly rich, imaginative and funny with the most economical of means," he said.

Mr Groom said Dali's work had a huge impact on later artists, including Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst.

The Edward James Foundation retained one red lobster telephone and one white version.

Eight others are in museum collections in Australia, Portugal, the Netherlands, Germany, South Africa, the USA and the Tate in London. One is in a private collection abroad.

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