Art: The Importance of Being Ernst

Since Max Ernst organized his first Dada exhibition in his native Cologne, 27 years had passed. That had been quite a show. The entrance had been through a public lavatory, and visitors were given hatchets to smash what they liked—since the idea was to give everybody's subconscious desires free rein. In one corner a schoolgirl in a white Communion dress pipingly recited obscene verses. Quite delightful.

As the high priest of surrealism (the successor of Dada), delicate little, white-haired Max Ernst was still going strong but his new show in a Manhattan gallery last week lacked something—the schoolgirl perhaps—which made that first...

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