Press Release: Conservation students from West Dean College help prepare iconic Lobster Telephone for loan for overseas exhibition

Students have recently had first-hand experience of preparing the College’s iconic Lobster Telephone for an exhibition at the Arp Museum Bahnhof Rolandseck, Germany. The exhibition, Salvador Dalí and Hans Arp – The Birth of Memory explores the parallels between the two artists, featuring well-known works from international museums and collections.

Designed by Salvador Dalí in 1938, this extraordinary object is frequently requested for significant exhibitions around Europe and North America. Ensuring this well-travelled object, made of complex and sensitive composite materials such early plastics, metals and hand-painted plaster is meticulously checked, handled, packed and transported before each loan is a highly technical operation.

Sujin Jung, one of the students who is studying for a Graduate Diploma Conservation Studies, said “Assessing and handling this object helped me understand how sensitive objects of this kind need to be methodically examined, documented and packed before they can go on loan. Thoroughly recording the condition of objects before and after they go on loan is critical to help us conserve and stabilise them for future generations.” 

Dating from 1938, two years after the famous International Surrealist Exhibition in London, the piece was also known as Aphrodisiac Telephone. It was owned by Edward James, the Founder of the College and one of the principal patrons of the Surrealist movement.

Hugh Morrison, Head of Collections at West Dean, commented: “We were delighted to lend the Telephone for this prestigious international exhibition that brings together key works of Surrealist art by Dalí from around the world including the large painting of The Dream of Venus dating from 1939, which has travelled from Prefectural Art Museum, Hiroshima, Japan to Germany. We are also pleased to provide a rare sound recording of Salvador Dalí’s poem The Dream of Venus, to be played in the exhibition. This was originally played at the World’s Fair, New York, 1939, and has recently been digitised from a 78rpm record in the archive.”

West Dean College of Arts and Conservation has an international reputation and is a full partner of the University of Sussex. Students with an interest in studying conservation or fine art can find more details on

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Notes to editors:

  • West Dean College of Arts and Conservation was founded in 1971 by the poet and Surrealist patron, Edward James, recognised by BBC Arts as the ‘the greatest patron of art of the early 20th century’.
  • The College is part of The Edward James Foundation (Charity No. 1126084), also comprising West Dean Gardens, West Dean Estate and West Dean Tapestry Studio.
  • All photography is free to use for editorial purposes.
  • West Dean College is situated on the A286, six miles north of Chichester and within easy access of Portsmouth, Guildford, Brighton and London.

For all media enquiries please contact Rachel Aked:
Email: [email protected]
Telephone: 07790 732448

West Dean College of Arts and Conservation, Chichester, West Sussex, PO18 OQZ