A long-lost work by the Spanish surrealist artist Óscar Domínguez that has been missing for more than 80 years has been rediscovered in a warehouse in Paris and put on display at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona.
The work, Jamais (Never), was a star attraction at the famous international surrealist exhibition in Paris in 1938 organised by the poet Paul Éluard along with Picasso’s close friend André Breton as well as Marcel Duchamp, Salvador Dalí and Man Ray.
Jamais is based on a gramophone with a woman’s legs in high heels disappearing into the horn of the machine, which tapers into a hand where the stylus would be caressing the platter. It was presented in Paris with a performance by the dancer Hélène Vanel in a work based on the studies of hypnosis and hysteria by the French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot.
It was shown the same year in Amsterdam then disappeared until Emmanuel Guignon, director of the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, tracked it down a lifetime later.
“This was one of the most important works at one of the most important exhibitions of the 20th century, and the most important of surrealism,” Guignon told the Guardian. “There was work by Dalí, Duchamp and others but in the middle was this work that attracted the most attention, a gramophone with this arm that allowed the figure to caress itself in an act of female auto-eroticism.”
From a conversation with Domínguez’s wife Maud Bonneaud-Westerdahl, Guignon believed that Domínguez gave it to Picasso as a gift.
Given the close friendship between Picasso and Domínguez, who was from Tenerife but moved to Paris when he was 21, Guignon was also convinced that he would have kept the work after Domínguez killed himself in 1957.
It was while he was preparing a photographic exhibition about Picasso that the museum director came upon some previously unknown pictures taken of Picasso by the photographer Nick de Morgoli in 1947. One photograph showed the artist posing next to Jamais in his studio in the Rue de Grands-Augustins.
Guignon got in touch with Picasso’s descendants and Catherine Hutin, daughter of the artist’s muse and second wife Jacqueline, told him she had come across a gramophone in a cardboard box in a warehouse on the outskirts of Paris.
“I’ve found a box with a gramophone in it,” she told Guignon. “She thought that’s all it was. She didn’t think it was a work of art.”
The work was in poor condition and has been restored by the museum’s art restorer Reyes Jiménez. The exhibition Jamais, Óscar Domínguez & Picasso is open to the public at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona until 8 November.