Auctions: an incredible collection of Man Ray at Drouot!

Auctions: an incredible collection of Man Ray at Drouot!


Forty-five years after his death, the price of the surrealist painter and photographer Man Ray continues to soar… On May 2, at the auction organized by Christie’s in New York, one of his Violins of Ingres (1924), originally listed for $7 million, was eventually acquired for 12.5 million, becoming the most expensive photograph ever sold in the world. Will the auctions that will take place at the Hôtel Drouot, in Paris, on June 28 and 29, benefit from this historic enthusiasm? About 200 lots of photographs, objects and lithographs signed for the most part by Man Ray, but also by his contemporaries – Raoul Hausmann, Brassaï, Cartier-Bresson, Jacques-André Boiffard, Berenice Abbott – are indeed put up for sale despite the hostility from some of the artist’s heirs. Explanations by Emmanuelle de L’Ecotais, specialist in Man Ray, former curator of the photographic collections of the Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris, and sales expert*.

Le Point : Where does the background of photos offered for sale come from, and what are its major pieces?

Emmanuelle de L’Ecotais: This is the collection of Edmonde and Lucien Treillard. Lucien was Man Ray’s collaborator from 1960 until his death in 1976, then he continued to promote the photographer’s work alongside his widow Juliet Man Ray, until her death in 1991. The important pieces are numerous, but let us quote the portrait of Marcel Duchamp in Rrose Sélavy, the Self-portrait of Man Ray, the objects So and Fishingbut also the few spectacular prints due to their format (Lee Miller, André Breton, Magnolia, Solarized calla lily) which are extremely rare, even if they are late (1960). Without forgetting of course the famous Violin of Ingres.

How is this version a unique work?

the Violin of Ingres is a mythical work, which Man Ray reinvented several times during his life. But it is offered here in an unpublished version dating from the end of the 1960s and inspired by pop art: this is the last version imagined by the artist, after the one drawn in Indian ink (kept at the Center Pompidou), the one made by photogram around 1930 (sold for 12.5 million dollars last month at Christie’s), the version to which he had added violin strings (made in three copies in 1965) and finally this version, inspired by screen prints by Andy Warhol in the late 1960s. This triptych is signed in ink, and unique. To tell the truth, nothing indicates that Man Ray wanted it that way, but I chose to form a triptych, because it seems to me faithful to the original idea of ​​the artist to see the three colored versions together. You really have to come and see it on site, it’s very spectacular and the reproductions do not pay homage to the originals…

In early May, at Christie’s in New York, a print of the Violin of Ingres precisely sold for 12.4 million dollars, becoming the most expensive photo in the world… How to explain this ever-increasing craze, in recent years, for Man Ray in particular, and for surrealist artists in general? ?

Surrealism, born just 100 years ago, is experiencing a resurgence of interest. We are currently living in a time when subjects dear to the surrealists are making a strong comeback: reality itself is questioned with questions relating to artificial intelligence, the metaverse, but also the thirst for freedom, attention to dreams and the subconscious. , and of course the place of women… But all this is close to the questions of surrealism.

The Man Ray Trust – the photographer’s heirs – is contesting the title deeds of Lucien and Edmonde Treillard, and has been accusing the spouses of theft for years… What do you say to these accusations? Did they try, like they had in spring 2021 for another Christie’s saleto stop the auctions of 28 and 29?

The charges of the Man Ray Trust are serious, muddled and unfounded. It should be remembered here that the Man Ray Trust only represents a part of Man Ray’s heirs: it is made up of Juliet’s family (her brothers and their children), who are absolutely no experts in the work. There is another part of the family, on the side of Man Ray (his niece and his descendants), part of the family which is the recipient of resale rights: yet they do not take part in these accusations at all… The Man Ray Trust , not content with accusing Lucien Treillard of theft, adds that there are forgeries in his collection, which is obviously contradictory… Moreover, this collection has been known to the whole world for more than thirty years (and has been exhibited at many recoveries in the most important museums), and they have never lodged a complaint for theft… Already last year, the attempt by the Trust to cancel the sale of Christie’s had failed; this did not even worry the buyers, who were numerous, and the sale was a resounding success, with 100% of the lots sold. So, despite all the efforts of the Man Ray Trust to have this new sale canceled, it is of course maintained.

A number of fake prints have circulated on the market, how can you reassure future buyers about the provenance of those on sale at Drouot?

As with all artists whose rating is high, we must indeed be careful. The provenance of a work and the quality of the prints are essential elements. The provenance here is perfect, since the origin is Man Ray himself. The works presented are exceptional from every point of view. Finally, I undertake to issue certificates of authenticity to buyers who so wish.

*Man Ray and his contemporaries, Hôtel Drouot, Tuesday 28 and Wednesday 29 June 2022


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