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They are being sold to help raise money for a new exhibition space.

The mansion, near Chichester in West Sussex, is the former home of Edward James, the poet, artist and patron of the Surrealist movement. It is also the location of West Dean College which includes fine art conservation courses among its specialities. The Edward James Foundation, which runs West Dean, will auction 200 lots at Christie’s on December 15 to raise £2.5m. 

Dalí Supporter

James, who died in 1984, funded Salvador Dalí during 1938 in exchange for the artwork he created. They together designed the sofa and telephone.

The Mae West lips sofa (1938) carries an estimate of £250,000-400,000 and the telephone (1938) has a £150,000-250,000 estimate.

The pieces will be auctioned alongside other works from West Dean House such as a pair of Louis XVI ormolu-mounted blue-ground porcelain 'lacrimal' vases, reputedly from Versailles, (circa 1782) with an estimate of £80,000-120,000.

The sale will fund the creation of a permanent public exhibition space for the collection for the first time.

James sold a number of works in the 1970s and early 1980s to fund the foundation and it has now decided to sell further works after a thorough audit.

Chairman of the trustees of the foundation Peter Benson said many of the works had been unused and were not on display and the sale will ensure that it “can retain the heart of the collection” while also helping to fund the college. The foundation has multiples of the Surrealist artworks including the sofa and telephone.

Inspiring and Empowering

The mansion was bequeathed by James, along with its contents, to become a teaching centre for arts, crafts and conservation. The Edward James Foundation, set up in 1964, is the educational charity behind West Dean College, West Dean Gardens and West Dean Tapestry Studio.

Christie’s head of private collections Andrew Waters said: “Edward James is best remembered for his brilliance in inspiring and empowering those around him. One of his most evident talents was his instinct to create environments full of surprise and wonder, witty and provocative.”