Oppenheim, Meret Elisabeth (1913–1985) By Barber, Fionna
Meret Oppenheim was a Swiss artist primarily known as a maker of Surrealist objects. Born in Berlin-Charlottenburg to a German father and Swiss mother, Oppenheim spent most of her youth in Switzerland until, at the age of eighteen, she traveled to Paris to become an artist. Although enrolled at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, Oppenheim preferred to work independently and, in 1933, her friendship with fellow Swiss artists Hans Arp and Alberto Giacometti led to an invitation to participate in the Surrealist Salon des Surindépendents. She subsequently became a part of the group focused around André Breton at the Café de la Place Blanche, continuing to exhibit with the Surrealists until returning to the family home in Basle in 1937, where she attended the School of Arts and Crafts for two years. A long period of depression and artistic crisis ensued during which Oppenheim destroyed much of her work. During the postwar period she became increasingly estranged from the remains of the Surrealist group, perceiving it as entrenched in the past. Her own solo career was belatedly developing and, with the advent of feminism, she was increasingly recognized as a role model for independent women artists. In 1975 Meret Oppenheim was the beneficiary of the Art Award of the City of Basle, and in 1982, the same year that she took part in Documenta 7 in Kassel, she was awarded the Art Prize of the City of Berlin.