Dalí (1904-89) designed the standard lamps with Edward James, the poet and artist who was a patron of the Surrealist movement.
According to The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, these lamps are arguably the most original and important examples of modern lighting designed in the UK and an export bar has been issued in the hope of finding a buyer to match the asking price of £425,000 plus £15,000 VAT.
James, who died in 1984, funded Dalí during 1938 in exchange for the artwork he created. They together designed a series of Mae West Lips sofas and lobster-shaped telephones which were part of the decoration at James’ home, Monkton House in West Sussex.
The home was built in 1902-03 for James’ parents and designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. Under James’ direction it became home to what is regarded as the most important and influential Surrealist interior ever created in Britain.
Dalí and James made two pairs of lamps. One pair was made to flank the marble fireplace in the dining room at Monkton and would have stood next to the Mae West Lips sofa (recently acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum). The other pair of lamps is still owned by the Edward James Foundation, which runs West Dean College, an institution that focuses on fine art conservation courses among its specialities.
Arts minister Michael Ellis said: “Salvador Dalí is one of the great artistic pioneers of the 20th century. These lamps were created in the UK by Dalí and it is important that we keep them here.
“I was delighted that the V&A was able to acquire the Mae West Lips sofa and I hope that we are able to find a buyer for the lamps so that they too can be saved for the nation.”
The decision to defer the export licence follows a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA), administered by The Arts Council.
RCEWA member Richard Calvocoressi said: “The lamps are everything one would expect of Dalí. Witty, erotic – the champagne cups can be read as female breasts – the lamps are also strikingly sculptural, standing about the height of a person, with the line of vertical cups resembling a spinal column: a brilliant example of fantasy lighting.”
An initial deadline of August 31 has been set which could be extended until November 30, if an intention to make an offer has come forward.
A number of objects sold from West Dean College recently have been barred from export. The Edward James Foundation sold around 200 works at Christie’s in December 2016 to fund a new exhibition space at West Dean.
In May the V&A announced that it bought one of the Mae West lips sofas, with support from Art Fund. The sofa had been barred from export last year.
In March the Lobster Telephone (White Aphrodisiac) was issued with an export bar. The telephone was made in 1938 and was one of 11.
A buyer is being sought to match the asking price of £853,047 plus VAT. A deadline of June 21 was set, with a possible extension until September 21 if there is a serious intention to raise funds.