Current Exhibitions


TOYEN (1902-1980) Na zámku La Coste / Im Schloss La Coste / At La Coste Castle, 1943 Öl auf Leinwand, 65 x 87 cm National Gallery in Prague © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021 Foto: © National Gallery Prague 2021

Press information

The Hamburger Kunsthalle is conceiving and presenting the first solo exhibition in Germany of the most important and influential Czech woman artist of the twentieth century, who went by the name of Toyen (Marie Čermínová, b. 1902 in Prague, d. 1980 in Paris). Her fascinating and multifaceted oeuvre occupies a unique position in the male-dominated Czech avant-garde as well as in the context of international Surrealism. Toyen continued to do innovative work until well into the 1970s, producing poetic and provocative images that oscillate between reality and imagination, the seductive and the abysmal, and leave an unforgettable impression.

This first comprehensive monographic show dedicated to the founding member of the Surrealist group in former Czechoslovakia assembles 300 works from all of the artist’s creative phases. 100 paintings, 180 drawings, collages, illustrations, prints and illustrated books and objects as well as a multitude of newly unearthed documents – artists’ letters, collaborative works and photographs – offer deep insights into Toyen’s extraordinary work and life. These diverse media witnesses shed light on her genre-straddling conjoining of various means of expression, of painting with collage, poetry with illustration. Toyen’s novel techniques and motifs enriched Surrealism in a singular fashion. Through focused juxtapositions with selected works by her colleagues in Czech and international Surrealism such as Jindřich Štyrský, Jindřich Heisler, Salvador Dalí, Yves Tanguy, Max Ernst, Victor Brauner, André Breton, René Magritte, Paul Klee, Man Ray and others the show also illuminates Toyen’s international connections and wide-ranging network.

Toyen was an early pioneer in her hometown of Prague, created haunting cycles of drawings during the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, and she continued to develop her painted oeuvre after going into exile in Paris in 1947. Both artistically and politically active, she questioned all attempts at categorisation. To avoid gender stereotyping, Marie Čermínová chose the pseudonym Toyen at the age of 21, which she derived from the French word »citoyen« (citizen). A lifelong border-crosser in art as in life, she refused to be pigeonholed according to preconceived notions, whether in terms of gender roles or prevailing styles, themes or techniques.

The Hamburger Kunsthalle will explore Toyen’s legacy from today’s point of view, as the questions she raised in her art regarding freedom and political, sexual and artistic identity as well as the pushing of socially defined boundaries once again seem particularly topical. The show looks at the artist’s oeuvre chronologically while focusing on central themes such as eroticism, revolt, dream, humour and alchemy.

The works on loan, assembled for the first time on this scale, come from over 60 collection, including major European museums such as the Moderna Museet Stockholm, the Centre Georges Pompidou Paris, the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris, the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire de Saint-Denis, the National Gallery Prague and many other mainly Czech museums. A large number are also being loaned by hidden French, Czech, German and English private collections, some of which are allowing the works to be shown in public for the first time.

Toyen had a long career extending over 60 years, but after achieving early success in her youth, she fell into oblivion during the last 20 years of her life. In 2000, the first large monographic exhibition was devoted to her in her home country. Outside the Czech Republic, however, and especially in Germany, Toyen is hardly known even among experts. The exhibition TOYEN is a cooperative project initiated by the Hamburger Kunsthalle that presents the artist in collaboration with the renowned National Gallery in Prague (8 April to 15 August 2021) and the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris, Paris Musées (25 March to 24 July 2022). The aim is to secure Toyen’s place in art history as well as to enable a broad international public to discover her oeuvre. The Kunsthalle is thus continuing to pursue here its loose series of (re)discoveries of women artists.

Accompanying the exhibition, the first internationally compiled comprehensive and richly illustrated catalogue on the artist will be published in a German edition (as well as slightly less comprehensive catalogues in English, Czech and French accompanying the exhibitions in Prague and Paris), containing numerous pieces of art, sources and scripts published for the first time as well as featuring extensive new research, by internationally renowned experts. The German edition (360 pages, 39 euros) and the English edition are available in the museum’s shop or online at regular price (

The exhibition takes place under the patronage of the Czech and French embassies.

Supported by: Freunde der Kunsthalle e. V., Deutsch-Tschechischer Zukunftsfonds, Hans Brökel Stiftung für Wissenschaft und Kultur,  Ministry of Culture and Media Hamburg
Cultural partner: NDR Kultur
Media partner: Hamburger Abendblatt