This Lobster Telephone is one of 11 such phones designed by the Spanish Surrealist artist Salvador Dalí for the British collector Edward James.

Dalí’s idea for the Lobster Telephone can be traced back to a drawing he made in New York in 1935 called Man Finds a Lobster Instead of a Phone. The drawing was done for a newspaper and shows a man reaching for the phone and realising it is a lobster instead. In January 1938, Dalí showed a model for the Lobster Telephone at the International Surrealist Exhibition in Paris, using a real lobster balanced on a phone. The work was titled Aphrodisiac Telephone.

Edward James met Dalí in 1934 and the two became firm friends. Later James collaborated with Dalí to design furniture (including the famous Mae West sofas) for his homes in London and at Monkton House in West Sussex. Dalí visited James in London in 1938 and their plan to make a functioning Lobster Telephone appears to date from that time. This white Lobster Telephone is one of four red and seven white phones made for James that year by the London firm Green & Abbott. The lobster appears to be cast from a real example of the species, with the inside hollowed out to fit over the receiver and a hole made in the tail to allow for the phone flex to be threaded through.

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art has a world-class collection of Surrealist art, including works by Leonora Carrington, Max Ernst, René Magritte, Joan Miró and Man Ray. This iconic Lobster Telephone, saved for the nation after an export ban prevented its sale abroad, now joins them there.

Artists include


Conceived by Salvador Dalí in 1936; commissioned by Edward James from Green & Abbott in 1938; Edward James Foundation; sold Christie’s London December 2016 to a private collector; export stopped.

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