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  • Provenance

    Private Collection, New York

  • Catalogue Essay

    André Breton and Paul Éluard commissioned 15 artists to customize mannequins for the 1938 International Surrealist Exhibition in Paris. Having recently renounced his lucrative career shooting fashion editorials for publications such as Vanity Fair, Man Ray was glad to participate. He knew he wanted to be an artist—there was no reason to delay any longer—and so he threw himself into his practice. He contributed a mannequin.
    That mannequin, though, was just his start: more resonant is neither this nor any other mannequin in the show (in fact, the present lot depicts that by Maurice Henry), which while radical have roots in “original” and thus traditional art making. Instead, it is Man Ray’s documenting photographs of the exhibition that remain most compelling. These archival afterthoughts remain as conceptual indices of the originals and as such propel him from purveyor of the Readymade to a sort of performance artist.
    The depicted mannequin was conceived as a stand-in for the body, a body made strange, its sexuality both exaggerated and morphed. In Man Ray’s subsequent framing of the work this interplay is made complete, for the surreal extensions of the mannequin are made all the more bizarre by Man Ray’s use of traditional portraiture. Here, the familiar shot of a model is turned on its head.
    The use of a mannequin is an interesting coincidence: his father and mother were a tailor and seamstress, and he had stringently avoided their career precedents. When pared with a psychoanalytic reading of the image, the early promise of the Radnitzkys’ son to avoid his parents’ choices together with his recent turn against fashion photography is made explicit: Man Ray documents that elemental physical block on which both of his parents’ careers were structured—and that very same device of the clothing designers whose product she loathed to shoot—but with his photography, has immortalized their tool in an obstructed and unusable state.

178

Untitled (Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme)

1938
Gelatin silver print.
9 x 5 5/8 in. (22.9 x 14.3 cm).
This work is a vintage print and is stamped with the artist's Denfert-Rochereau Stamp (M10) and Second Early Copyright Stamp (M14), and annotated on verso.

Estimate
$7,000 - 9,000 

[email protected]

25 April 2009, 12pm
New York