Karolina Koczynska, a Postgraduate Researcher at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA), went along with the rest of the Dada & Surrealism Research Group to the Archive and Special Book Collection in the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

The Group was established to bring together scholarship on Dada and Surrealism across the University of Edinburgh, and provides an interdisciplinary forum for staff and students to facilitate exchanges between researchers, practitioners, and curators.

Karolina reports on the visit.

The Dada & Surrealism Research Group recently had the opportunity to investigate the Archive and Special Books Collection housed inside the Modern Two building at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. The visit was organised by Dr Christian Weikop, a Senior Lecturer and Chancellor’s Fellow in History of Art.

The Collection contains over 120 photographs, drawings, sketchbooks, and news clippings, as well as artists’ personal and official papers, all alongside over 2,500 artist books. Among these is a world-class breadth of German Expressionist, Dada, and Surrealist publications, the bulk of which is part of the Roland Penrose and Gabrielle Keiller collections.

The group members were given expert guidance on the history and importance of the collection by Kirstie Meehan, the Archivist at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, whose role includes preserving the correspondence, photographs, film and special books in the collections, as well as curating displays. 

While there, we had the chance to examine Alfred Stieglitz’s magazine 291, Francis Picabia’s 391, the Berlin Dada periodicals Neue JugendDie Pleite and Der blutige Ernst, as well as the Paris-based Littérature and La Révolution surréaliste.

One highlight was a special edition of Tristan Tzara’s book La Première aventure céleste de M. Antipyrine, which he gifted to André Breton in 1921. Breton then rebound the book, attaching photographs of Dada performances while keeping Tzara’s handwritten letter inside. The as-yet untranslated letter provides an important and direct link between the Zurich Dadaists and the Paris Surrealists, while hinting at the Collection's rich store of material waiting to be translated, analyzed, and explored.