Surrealism lovers should head to the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) to see Salvador Dali’s iconic Mae West Lips Sofa. The iconic artwork was acquired by philanthropic donations in 2023, and it’s now on display at NGV International.

“Salvador Dali’s instantly recognisable Mae West Lips Sofa is one of the most famous pieces of 20th-century design and a true icon of surrealism,” said NGV director Tony Ellwood AM in a statement. “Thanks to the generosity of our donors to the NGV’s 2023 Annual Appeal, this important sculpture will join the NGV collection for the enjoyment of generations to come.”

The sculpture was created by Dali based on his gouache and photographic composition Mae West’s Face which May Be Used as a Surrealist Apartment, currently held by the Art Institute of Chicago.

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Describing the work, NGV senior curator of international art Dr Ted Gott told Broadsheet: “Dali took a photograph of Mae West from a magazine, and then he painted over her face, and he made her blonde hair to be drapes framing the room. Her nose was the fireplace, and her eyes were two pictures framed on either side of the fireplace. And then there was a wooden floor, and her lips were the sofa in the middle of the room. So it’s just a fantastic way where Dali looks at one thing and sees something that no one, none of us, would see, which is so engaging.”

Dali created three sofas in pink and red with gold fringes, and two with red lips and black fringing. The NGV artwork is one of only two in the world with the red and black design; the other is at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It’s the last of the artist’s five sofas to enter a public collection.

Gott was first struck by the piece when working on an exhibition for a surrealism show in Canberra and thought about it again when he put together the show Salvador Dali: Liquid Desire in 2009, which was then the NGV’s most popular show to date with more than 390,000 visitors.

Salvador Dali’s Mae West Lips Sofa is on display now at NGV International. Entry is free.