“Undercover Surrealism”

Hayward Gallery

FOR AN INVETERATE FAN of Georges Bataille’s groundbreaking journal Documents, visiting “Undercover Surrealism” was a bit like opening a pop-up album in which black-and-white images suddenly transform not only into three dimensions but also into color. Yet this little gem of an exhibition—curated by Dawn Ades, Simon Baker, and Fiona Bradley—could just as easily be appreciated by the uninitiated, for whom it provided a journey both quaint and fizzy into the late 1920s equivalent of a Mannerist cabinet of curiosities. The show greeted visitors with a potpourri that included an extraordinary Janus-faced, skin-covered helmet mask from late-nineteenth-century Nigeria; a rare surviving example of a mysterious, eighteenth-century French “passion bottle” containing holy water, in which are suspended small colored-glass figures standing for episodes of the Passion; an Abyssinian oil on canvas dating

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