Surrealist cabinet of curiosities bought for Manchester

The Bureau of the Centre for the Study of Surrealism and its Legacy, a fictional office filled with Surrealist objects by American artist Mark Dion, has been bought by Manchester Museum with Art Fund support.

Mark Dion, The Bureau of the Centre for the Study of Surrealism and its Legacy, 2005 Courtesy Manchester Museum. © The artist

Mark Dion, The Bureau of the Centre for the Study of Surrealism and its Legacy, 2005

In 2002, the University of Manchester's Research Centre for Studies of Surrealism and its Legacies invited Dion to become an artist-in-residence for a project in collaboration with Manchester Museum, with the aim of creating an installation reflecting on the impact and legacy of Surrealism. 

Dion's residency resulted in the Bureau, a space that Dion said would 'provide a fitting setting for the contemplation and study of Surrealism'. Dion created the work in collaboration with the museum's staff, who he asked to find objects that would 'make you smile, laugh, shake your head in shock and condemnation, or gasp'.

Since the Bureau was installed at Manchester Museum in 2005, it has been one of the museum's leading visitor attractions. The work evokes a 1920s curator's office, filled with curiosities: unusual objects, artefacts and specimens collected at a time when the museum's collecting policies were less clearly directed. Heads mounted on shields, guinea pigs with four hind legs, bric-a-brac and flea market finds are among the esoteric items on display.

The Bureau has now been acquired for Manchester Museum with help from an Art Fund grant. It will be available to tour museums and galleries around the UK until late 2017, when it will be re-installed in Manchester Museum's expanded exhibition space.

Dr Nick Merriman, director of Manchester Museum, said: 'I am delighted that with the generous support of the Art Fund, the Henry Moore Foundation and the V&A Purchase Grant Fund, we have been able to acquire this wonderful work by Mark Dion.

'Working with international contemporary artists is a key part of the Museum’s policy of offering fresh perspectives on our collections, and this has been a very special collaboration. This acquisition ensures the long-term future of this outstanding work and I look forward to it returning to public display at the Museum in 2017.'

Venue details

Manchester Museum The University of Manchester, Oxford Road Greater Manchester M13 9PL 0161 275 2648 www.manchester.ac.uk/museum

Entry details

Free to all

Daily, 10am – 5pm
Closed 24 – 26 Dec and 1 Jan

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