This Europe: Surreal scenes at sale of André Breton's collection

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The Independent Online

The sale of a library assembled by one of Surrealism's high-priests produced fittingly bizarre scenes in Paris and, more prosaically, prices 40 per cent higher than expected.

The sale of a library assembled by one of Surrealism's high-priests produced fittingly bizarre scenes in Paris and, more prosaically, prices 40 per cent higher than expected.

Three kinds of devotees arrived for the first day of the sale of the art, papers and books of the poet André Breton, who died in 1966. Some bid for items dedicated by Leon Trotsky, Sigmund Freud and Salvador Dali. Others were protesting at the failure of the French state to preserve the collection.

There were also those – claiming to be Surrealism's true disciples – rejecting both the auction and the "museum-ification" of Breton's work, something he himself opposed. They bombarded crowds at the Hôtel Drouot auction house with fake €10 notes bearing the poet'spicture and the words: "Your money stinks of the corpse of the poet you never dared to become."

Breton championed Surrealist artists in Paris from the 1920s. His library was left untouched by his family for 40 years but, after the state refused to buy it, they auctioned it. A first edition of the essay "What is Surrealism?", with René Magritte's sketch used for the book's cover, sold for €243,000 (£168,000).

His daughter, Aube Elléouët-Breton, said he wanted his letters to go to a charitable foundation, and "as for the rest, if they want something, let them buy it".

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