One of surrealist artist Salvador Dalí’s white lobster telephones could be lost from the UK unless a buyer steps in to meet the price tag of more than £850,000.
Michael Ellis, the arts minister, has put a temporary export bar on the artwork, Lobster Telephone (White Aphrodisiac), by Dalí and Edward James, to give buyers a chance to keep it in the UK.
It is one of 11 lobster telephones commissioned in 1938 by James, Dalí’s patron and an English poet known for his promotion of the surrealist movement.
Inspiration for the telephones came in 1936 when Dalí, James and others were eating lobsters and one of the discarded shells landed on a telephone, experts said.
Each of the telephones, seven of which were hand-painted white and four painted red, is slightly different and therefore unique.
Ellis said: “Dalí was one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. This iconic work was created in the UK, and I want it to remain here. It is important that we keep world-class art in this country and I hope a buyer can be found to save it for the nation.”
A decision on issuing an export licence has been deferred until 21 June, with the possibility of extending the deadline until 21 September if a serious intention is made to buy the artwork at the recommended price of £853,047 (plus VAT of £29,000).