The Lobster Telephone is one of Dalí‘s most surreal and striking creations. By combining an actual working telephone which is made of Bakelite with a plaster of paris lobster as the handset the quintessential technological device becomes dysfunctional and primordial. The Lobster Telephone produced in 1938 is one of nine others previously owned by Edward James, an eccentric and wealthy Englishman, for whose London house it was likely designed. James, a foremost collector of Surrealist works was considered to be one of Dalí’s most important patrons and a personal friend. James support during the late 1930’s allowed the artist considerable freedom to produce some of his finest paintings and made possible Dalí’s first trip to Italy.
It is not unusual that Dalí has made the analogy between food and sex in his works, including during the 1939 New York World’s Fair, when he dressed live nude models in costumes made of fresh seafood. It was a lobster that covered the female’s sexual organs. Similarly with the phone, the lobster’s tail, where its sexual organs are located, is placed directly over the mouthpiece while the lobster’s claws menace one’s ears.
In Dalí’s autobiography, The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí, he wrote, “I do not understand why, when I ask for a grilled lobster in a restaurant, I am never served a cooked telephone….”
The telephones also exist in four additional red lobster handles on black telephones along with the six white all manufactured by Green and Abbot in London.
1997, New York City, Museum of Modern Art, "Objects of Desire: The Modern Still Life"
1998, St. Petersburg, The Dalí Museum, "Dalí by Design"
1998, Pittsburgh, Andy Warhol Museum of Art, “Dali at the Warhol”
2015, St. Petersburg, Salvador Dali Museum, “Dali & da Vinci: Minds, Machines & Masterpieces”
2017, St. Petersburg, The Dalí Museum, "Dalí and Schiaparelli"
2018, St. Petersburg, The Dalí Museum, "Dalí/Duchamp"