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Man Ray’s objects

In November, Man Ray’s archive will auction at Sotheby’s Paris.

Consisting of over 300 lots the sale will include a wealth of materials from his estate that span his life and career – including a huge array of photographs.

It is the largest collection of his work to come to auction in almost 20 years.

In addition, a number of surrealist objects are offered.

These include a work titled Ce que manque à nous tous or “What we all lack”, which consists of a clay pipe (inscribed with the title of the work) topped by a glass bubble that inverts the world around it.

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This forced new perspective was one of the primary aims of the dadaists and surrealists.

Additional lots include a model of photographer Lee Miller’s lips in gold and two modernist chess sets.

Man Ray’s objects are less widely known than his photographs, as the majority have been lost over the years, but are equally fascinating.

He began working on them during the 1920s. Some were intended primarily for use in photographs and destroyed afterwards, meaning collectors covet those that do survive.

This scarcity is partly explained by the story behind Object to be Destroyed (created circa 1922-1923 and not included in the sale), a metronome with an eye photo clipped to the arm, which is housed in the Tate.

He explained: “I had a metronome in my place which I set going when I painted – like the pianist sets it going when he starts playing – its ticking noise regulated the frequency and number of my brushstrokes…

“A painter needs an audience, so I also clipped a photo of an eye to the metronome’s swinging arm to create the illusion of being watched as I painted.

“One day I did not accept the metronome’s verdict, the silence was unbearable and since I had called it, with a certain premonition, Object of Destruction, I smashed it to pieces.”

Tom

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