V&A acquires Mae West Lips sofa by Salvador Dalí and Edward James

The V&A has announced that it has acquired one of the most important examples of British Surrealist furniture ever produced with support from Art Fund.

The Mae West Lips sofa was the joint creation of artist Salvador Dalí (1904-1989) and his most important British patron, Edward James (1907-1984). Dalí and James collaborated on the design after James suggested that they should create a sofa based on Dalí’s gouache (or drawing) Mae West’s Face which May be Used as a Surrealist Apartment,1934-35.

James had five Mae West Lips sofas produced in 1938 in different fabrics. A pink satin version has previously been on long-term loan to the V&A, appearing as a star object in the 2007 major exhibition Surreal Things: Surrealism and Design. The version that the V&A has now acquired is one of a pair designed specifically for James’ country home, Monkton House in West Sussex, originally designed by Edwin Lutyens in 1902.

Following its sale by the Edward James Foundation in 2017, a temporary export stop was placed on the sofa after the buyer applied to export it from the UK. Christopher Wilk, Keeper of Furniture, Textiles and Fashion at the V&A, said: “This is one of the most beautiful and important examples of modern furniture ever produced. Its provenance and the circumstances of its creation are exceptional in the annals of modern art and design in Britain."

Stephen Deuchar, director of Art Fund, said: “Salvador Dalí and Edward James’ Mae West lips sofa has become both an iconic piece of 20th-century design and a joyous expression of Surrealism. For the V&A to save this for the nation is an absolute triumph, and we’re delighted to play a part in its acquisition. I am sure that it will be a huge favourite with visitors from around the country and the world.”

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