Surrealism & Glass Art

08.03 – 11.08.2024

The Alchemy exhibition will take visitors back to the origins of mudac’s contemporary glass art collection, now the largest in Europe. Glass works by Salvador Dalí, Marc Chagall, Jean Cocteau, and Max Ernst trace the links between the history of the collection and the surrealist movement. Alchemy will also bring together contemporary works—some displayed for the first time—that attest to the legacy of the movement among artists.

In 2024, the three Plateforme 10 museums – the MCBA, Photo Elysée and mudac – will team up for an exceptional Surrealist season.

The Forge of the Angels

The “Forge of the Angels” glass workshop owes its existence to one man, Egidio Costantini, whose atypical background did not predestine him to revolutionise the world of glass. Indeed, Costantini became familiar with the work of the Murano craftspeople late in life, after having worked in a number of different trades. Saddened by the mass production of glass objects for tourists visiting Venice, he sought to restore the material to its former glory by using it as an artistic medium.

From 1950 onwards, he produced over a hundred works in collaboration with artists from a wide range of backgrounds. Based on sketches imagined by these artists, the glassmaker gave life to sculptural creations which he infused with his own sensibility. Costantini went so far as to say: “[…] the drawing gradually disappears, and the new work brings out the soul of the artist and that of the glassmaker”.

His many collaborations were hailed by the critics and, through American collector Peggy Guggenheim, aroused the interest of private art lovers around the world. The master of the Forge of the Angels is unique in that, over and above his creative work, he nurtured a genuine complicity with the greatest artists of his time.

The Engelhorn patrons

Peter and Traudl Engelhorn were an art-loving couple living in the canton of Vaud who were fascinated by the artistic and technical potential of glass. They were both aware of a collection of glass sculptures, the result of an interesting collaboration between contemporary artists and the master craftsman Egidio Costantini. They acquired 36 of these pieces, created between 1959 and 1970, to which two were added in 1991.

In 1970 the Engelhorns decided to donate their contemporary glass art collection to the Musée des Arts Décoratifs de la Ville de Lausanne—now known as mudac, museum of Contemporary Design and Applied Arts. The donation agreement between Peter Engelhorn and the City of Lausanne was signed on 29 March 1971, with the pieces created at the Forge of the Angels joining the mudac collection. All were accompanied by certificates, signed and dated by Egidio Costantini and engraved with the artist’s name and that of the Fucina degli Angeli.

Contemporary Glass Art

The Alchemy exhibition also features a group of contemporary glass works from the mudac collection, some of which are being displayed for the first time. These pieces bear witness among today’s artists in various ways, to the legacy of this century-old movement. They serve as a reminder that Surrealism has always celebrated total freedom, and that it continues to offer a form of escape from the real world.

Marco Costantini
Amélie Bannwart

Anaëlle Hirschi
Géraldine Desarzens

Set design
Collectif GALTA

Graphic design
Neo Neo

Main partener

Exhibition partners

The Surrealism Season is supported by the Loterie Romande and the Fondation Leenaards, partner of the “Résonances” project, which brings together the three museums through thematic commissions for local artists.