850,000 dollars: this is the price that a collector will have to pay to become the new owner of a lobster-phone by Salvador Dalí. A few days ago, Arts Minister Michael Ellis put a temporary export ban on the object in an attempt to keep it in the UK. His decision was made following a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA).

Salvador Dalí Salvador Dalí. ARR

Composed of a period telephone base and an elegant crustacean-shaped receiver, the lobster-phone is one of the most famous objects to be created by the Spanish artist. In 1936, Dalí was at a dinner party whose guests also included surrealist poet Edward James. Lobsters were served when suddenly one of the guests threw a shell that by chance landed on a telephone. A work of art was born.

Salavador Dalí created a total of 11 lobster-phones – also known as Aphrodisiac Telephones – at the end of the 1930s. Several models are conserved in public collections in London (the Tate Modern), Rotterdam, Minneapolis, Johannesburg and Lisbon.

Some of the telephones are painted white, others red. Each object possesses small variations that make them all unique works. The lobster-phone being sold today is the last-born in the series.

Aphrodisiac Telephone (1938), Salvador Dalí Aphrodisiac Telephone (1938), Salvador Dalí. ARR

“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”, Michael Ellis declared regarding the Dalí work. The temporary export ban runs until 21 June, but may be extended until 21 September. Fishing for the lobster-phone is open.