Here for the romantic holiday, the back story of Dali’s sensuous Mae West sofa and a great shot of what in his Surreal way of thinking was early phone sex: A Lobster Perched On A Telephone, 1936. He titled it Aphrodisiac. He also favored shoe hats designed with Schiaparelli and other lobster-ish couture. Think of Lady Gaga as an artistic descendant of Salvador’s, a “daughter” in the Dali style with a thing for exotic head wear such as vintage telephones and jeweled lobsters worn as chapeaux.
In 1936, when Dali was in London for the International Surrealist Exhibition and needing dough, he signed an agreement with Edward James, a wealthy and eccentric poet and collector, whereby he would receive a wage in exchange for his total output for a year. The two also created designs for surreal furniture. James was, at that time, redecorating Monkton House, a Lutyens dower house on his family’s West Dean estate in Sussex, which he transformed into a mauve-walled extravaganza of surreal fantasy.
The lip sofa relates to Dali’s paintings and drawings that were inspired by the Hollywood actress, Mae West. Face of Mae West, for instance, depicts her features as objects in a surrealist room, with her eyes as paintings, her nose as a fireplace and her lips as a sofa. Production took place in 1938, with James closely involved, choosing the fabrics and colours.
Only five sofas are known to have been made and he kept them all. Three are still owned by the Edward James Foundation in West Dean, and two were sold shortly before James’s death in 1984. The Brighton Art Gallery and Museum bought one, while the other, which was sold by Christie’s in 2003, was acquired by a private collector.
Estimated at £25,000 to £50,000 , the piece sold in 2003 at Christies in the U.K. for £62,140. Whoever bought it, however, will not necessarily want to sit on it. Dali was interested in furniture design, but his products were strictly non-functional. One of the inspirations for the sofa, he said, was a group of particularly uncomfortable rocks near his home in Cadaques.