Salvador Dalí’s ‘Lobster Telephone (White Aphrodisiac) has been temporarily export barred until an asking price of £853,047 can be matched.

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Arts minister Michael Ellis has placed a temporary export bar on Salvador Dalí’s (1904 – 89) Lobster Telephone (White Aphrodisiac).

It is the last example of the hand-painted Surrealist sculpture known to remain in the UK and will be removed from the country unless a buyer can be found to match the asking price of £853,047 plus VAT.

Decision on the application will be deferred until June 21 with a possible extension until September 21 if there is a serious intention to raise funds.

One such extension was recently granted to a bar granted Dalí’s Mae West Lips Sofa, sold at a Christie’s auction in late 2016. It is the same sale where the telephone is believed to have been purchased.

The telephone was made in 1938, one of 11 commissioned and co-created by the artist’s patron Edward James (1907-84).

“With its suggestion of both eroticism and menace, pleasure and pain, Lobster Telephone (White Aphrodisiac) is a classic Surrealist conceit recalling the ‘trap’ sculptures of Giacometti’s Surrealist phase,” says Richard Calvocoressi of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA). He adds that “its importance cannot be overestimated”.

Seven were hand-painted white and four red. Today, the majority of the white versions are in museums abroad, including public collections in Rotterdam, Johannesburg and Lisbon.

Marking this version out as particularly significant is its white-on-white colour scheme, so distinct from the well-known red and black versions. James’ role as a UK patron and collector adds to the object’s importance. His foundation now funds West Dean College, a centre for the preservation of traditional arts and crafts.

“Salvador Dalí was one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. This iconic work was created in the UK and I want it to remain here,” said arts minister Michael Ellis. “It is important that we keep world-class art in this country and I hope a buyer can be found to save it for the nation.”

Organisations or individuals interested in purchasing the sculpture should contact the RCEWA on 0845 300 6200.