Nobody will give you freedom. You have to take it.
—— Meret Oppenheim
Meret Oppenheim (1913 – 1985) was a German-born Swiss Surrealist artist and photographer. Oppenheim was a member of the Surrealist movement along with André Breton, Luis Buñuel, Max Ernst, and other writers and visual artists. Oppenheim also famously appeared as a model for photographs by Man Ray, most notably a series of nude shots of her interacting with a printing press. Explored throughout her paintings and sculptures and suffused with humor, eroticism, and menacing darkness, Oppenheim’s work reflected her critical explorations of female sexuality, identity, and exploitation. In her best-known works, Oppenheim painted household objects in suggestively erotic arrangements or created haunting assemblages of indeterminate origins, often transforming objects closely associated with feminine domesticity into erotic symbols. Her most iconic work—the result of a joking conversation with Pablo Picasso—is Object (Le Déjeuner en Fourrure) (1936), a teacup, saucer, and spoon covered in Chinese gazelle fur, creating an arresting meld of the domestic with the erotic. Through exhibitions and activities amongst the Surrealist circle, Oppenheim was closely associated with Jean Arp, André Breton, and Max Ernst.
Over the course of her life, Oppenheim created jewelry, sculpture, paintings, furniture, performance art, and poetry. In 1967 Oppenheim was recognized with a large retrospective in Stockholm. Her work was further revived in the 1970s by feminist scholars seeking to reintroduce to art history forgotten women artists. In 1975 she won the Art Award from the city of Basel and in 1982 the Grand Art Prize from the city of Berlin. Exhibitions in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, including retrospectives in New York City (1996; Guggenheim Museum), Bern (2006; Kunstmuseum), and Berlin (2013; Martin-Gropius-Bau), portrayed her not as the Surrealist one-hit wonder that she had become in the 1930s but as a multifaceted artist with a varied and inspired body of work.