Toyen, From 'Débris de Reve', 1967 Photo: Albin Dahlström/Moderna Museet © Toyen / Bildupphovsrätt 2018

Queer Surrealisms: Toyen

31.7 2018


Welcome to a conversation between curators Ladislav Zikmund-Lender and Rado Istok on Toyen, a founding member of the Surrealist Group of Czechoslovakia. With her profoundly queer and erotic works, Toyen stands out as a key figure in contemporary accounts of the surrealist movement. The conversation is moderated by Carlota Mir.

Who was Toyen?

Toyen was born in Prague in 1902 as Marie Čermínová. In the 1920s, she adopted her gender-neutral artistic name, which refers to the French word citoyen (citizen). In the interwar period, she participated in the activities and international exhibitions of the surrealist movements in both Prague and Paris, where she also moved after the end of WWII. Despite her relevance, Toyen has remained marginal within the art historical canon.

Toyen’s profoundly queer and erotic works, as well as her androgynous persona and her rejection of the gender binary place her as a key figure in contemporary accounts of the surrealist movement. Her approach to sexuality and the subconscious suggests another form of surrealism which resists heteronormativity. Looking at Toyen’s work through a contemporary lens reveals the ways in which queerness has been excluded from conventional art history, underlining the need to reclaim the concept today, in the context of, but also beyond, the discourses generated during the Pride festival.