Méret Oppenheim (Swiss, October 6, 1913–November 15, 1985) was an artist and photographer who was a member of the Surrealist movement during the 1920s. Born in Germany, Oppenheim was forced to move to Switzerland as a child due to her father's conscription into the German army during World War I. In Switzerland, she was exposed to art primarily through an aunt. This exposure led her to relocate to Paris in 1932 to attend the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. Oppenheim’s studies at the Académie were inconsistent, but her work was developed enough to earn her an invitation from Hans Arp (German/French, 1886–1966) and Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901–1966) to participate in a Surrealist exhibition, the Salon des Surindépendants, in 1933. Her participation in the exhibit earned her official welcome in the circle of Surrealist artists and writers thriving in Paris at that time. It also gave her the cachet needed to put on her first solo expedition at the Galerie Schulthess in Basel in 1936.

Oppenheim's work focused on the sexuality and exploitation of women. The theme can be seen repeatedly in her paintings as well as her sculptures, in which she used regular objects posed as women to make her statements. Some of her work achieved worldwide recognition, especially the piece Object (Le Déjeuner en fourrure), which consisted of a teacup, saucer, and spoon covered in Chinese gazelle fur. This 1936 sculpture was the result of a comment from Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973) that anything could be covered in fur. The work was exhibited at the London International Surrealist Exhibition in 1936, then later at the Museum of Modern Art in New York as part of the Alfred H Barr Jr. (American, 1902–1981) Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism exhibit in both 1936 and 1937.

Oppenheim's productivity after this early success became erratic, and she destroyed much of the work she produced as she moved away from her Surrealist roots. She began to work regularly again in the 1950s, designing costumes and sets for a Picasso play in 1956 and creating a piece, Le Festin, which depicted a nude woman covered with food on a table. This work was shown at the last International Surrealist Exhibition in Paris in 1959. She continued to produce her work, much of it controversial, until shortly before her death. Oppenheim's estate is represented by the Levy Galerie in Eppendorf.

Timeline

1913
Born in Berlin, Germany
1974
Kunstpreis der Stadt Basel, Switzerland
1985
Died in Basel, Switzerland

Exhibitions

2014
Meret Oppenheim. Rétrospective. Lille métropole musée d'art moderne d'art contemporain et d'art brut, France
2014
Meret Oppenheim - Hommage zum 100. Geburtstag, Galerie Serge Ziegler SA, Zurich, Switzlerand
2013
Meret Oppenheim, Retrospektive zum 100. Geburtstag, Bank Austria Kunstforum, Vienna, Austria / Jüdisches Museum Rendsburg / Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, Germany
2012
Schädelkult - Kopf und Schädel in der Kulturgeschichte des Menschen, Reithalle Schloss Gottorf, Schleswig, Germany
2012
The Small Utopia. Ars multiplicata, Fondazione Prada, Cà Corner della Regina, Venice, Italy
2012
La Femme, zieglerzwei, Zürich, Switzerland
2007
Galerie Carzaniga, Basel, Switzerland
2006
Meret Oppenheim – Retrospektive: mit ganz enorm wenig viel, Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland
2005
París y los surrealistas, Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, Bilbao, Spain
2004
The Future Has a Silver Lining - Genealogies of Glamour, Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zürich, Swiss
2003
Meret Oppenheim - Die Pelztasse war nur der Anfang - Hommage zum 90. Geburtstag, LEVY, Hamburg, Germany
2003
Meret Oppenheim - Malerei, Grafik, Multiples, galerie jochen höltje, Tübingen, Germany
2003
Galerie Renée Ziegler, Zürich, Switzerland (solo)
2002
Beautiful Productions: Parkett Editions since 1984, Irish Museum of Modern Art - IMMA, Dublin
2001
Bilder und Skulpturen, Galerie Renée Ziegler, Zürich, Switzerland (solo)
2000
rot grau - Basler Malerei, Kunsthalle Basel, Swiss
1999
Mirror Images: Women, Surrealism, and Self-Representation, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA
1998
Meret Oppenheim, Bildmuseet, Umeå, Sweden (solo)
1997
Meret Oppenheim. Eine andere Retrospektive, Galerie Krinzinger, Vienna, Austria (solo)
1995
Galerie A. von Scholz, Berlin, Germany (solo)
1994
Galerie Renée Ziegler, Zürich, Switzerland (solo)
1993
Hommage á Meret Oppenheim, Galerie Schön + Halepa, Berlin, Germany (soo)
1992
Man Ray - Meret Oppenheim, Paintings and Works on Paper, Kent Gallery, New York
1991
Galerie Renée Ziegler, Zürich, Switzerland (solo)
1990
Palau de la Virreina, ICA, Barcelona (solo)
1989
M.O., Galerie des Bastions, Geneva, Switzerland / Galerie Pudelko, Bonn, Germany (solo)
1988
Kent Gallery, New York (solo)
1987
Galerie Renée Ziegler, Zürich, Switzerland (solo)
1986
Biennale, Venice, Italy
1985
Meret Oppenheim / Mariann Grunder, Nola - Naples, Italy
1984
Nantenshi Gallery, Tokyo, Japan (solo)
1983
Galerie Renée Ziegler, Zürich, Switzerland (solo)
1982
documenta 7, Kassel, Germany
1981
Permanence du regard Surréaliste, ELAC, Lyon, France
1980
FARBER, Bruxelles, Belgium
1979
Das Schubladenmuseum, Kunstmuseum, Bern, Switzerland
1978
Dada and Surrealism, Hayward Gallery, London, UK
1977
Künstlerinnen International, Kunstverein, Frankfurt a.M, Germany
1976
Musée d´Art, Rennes, France
1975
Magna - Feminismus und Kreativität, Galerie Nächst St. Stephan, Vienna, Austria
1974
Galerie Renée Ziegler, Zürich, Switzerland (solo)
1974
Galerie Ziegler, Geneva, Switzerland (solo)
1973
Art Boxes, Kunsthandel Brinkmann, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
1972
Artistes Suisses contemporains, Grand Palais, Paris, France
1971
Sturmkonstnärer och Schweizisk Nukonst, Museum, Landskrona, Sweden
1970
Galerie Renée Ziegler, Zürich, Switzerland (solo)
1967
Retrospective at Moderna Museet Stockholm, Sweden