A trove of Surrealist works and ephemera by Surrealist artist Man Ray and others in his circle will be auctioned at Christie’s Paris headquarters on March 2.
The works come from the estate of the artist’s last assistant, Lucien Treillard, who died in 2003. The 203 works headed to auction range from Man Ray’s portraits of socialites, muses, and modern artists to readymades by his friend Marcel Duchamp. Offered for sale by Treillard’s widow, the group of works is expected to fetch a collected €3 million ($3.6 million).
Treillard’s personal collection provides a look at the range of Man Ray’s output, and the forthcoming Christie’s sale is the largest one devoted to the artist since 2014, when Sotheby’s auctioned off 400 lots from the Man Ray Trust, netting $3.7 million. Prior to that, in 1995, following a settlement with the French state that saw 17,000 objects by the artist enter the collection of Paris’s Centre Pompidou, the Juliet Man Ray estate sold 500 lots from Man Ray’s archive at Sotheby’s for $6 million.
In the past, speculation around the mishandling of Man Ray’s estate has had a negative impact on the artist’s market. In 1998, the sale of Man Ray’s Noire et Blanche (1926) at Christie’s sparked a dispute over its provenance record. Still, the artist has seen new milestones at auction in recent years. Almost two decades later, an original of Noire et Blanche made headlines again, when it set a record price for the artist, selling for $3 million at Christie’s Paris in 2017.
Treillard met Man Ray through Georges Visât, a lithographer and art editor. Hired in 1960 to work alongside the expatriate American artist, who spent most of his career in France, Treillard led a decade-plus working relationship with Man Ray that lasted until the artist’s death in 1976. Treillard often helped source materials for Man Ray’s ready-mades, and even organized exhibitions devoted to him. Now, he is known for his role in promoting the artist’s legacy, facilitating reprints, liaising exhibition loans, and helping place artworks with archives.
Many of the works in the Christie’s sale were held by Treillard for decades. (They have been authenticated by the Man Ray Committee, according to Christie’s representatives.) The leading lot is a Duchamp “Boîte-en-Valise” work, which contains 68 reproductions of the Dadaist’s works. Conceived in 1940 and executed in 1963, it is expected to fetch €200,000–€300,000. “It shows the collaboration between the two artists,” said Elodie Morel, head of Christie’s photography department in Paris.
Also headed to sale is a rare 1915 volume illustrated by Man Ray, titled A Book of Divers Writings by Adon Lacroix, which includes poems by his first wife. Christie’s estimates it is one of around 20 such volumes ever printed. Three other copies reside in museum collections, at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The present copy, which Treillard purchased from a British dealer in the 1980s, is expected to sell for €80,000–€120,000 ($97,000–$121,000).
Man Ray’s photographic work is also represented in the sale. In addition to a book containing the artist’s “rayographs,” which were made by exposing photo paper to light, there will be contact prints featuring image of members of Man Ray’s circle, including Dora Maar, Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst and Jean Cocteau.
One portrait, carrying an estimate of €6,000-€8,000 ($7280-$9,707), depicts American photojournalist and model Lee Miller. A recurring subject in many of Man Ray’s top works, Miller was also central in developing the solarization technique, which produces the halo-like effect that Man Ray often applied to his portraits of women. Another portrait of a prominent muse, depicting artist Méret Oppenheim from Man Ray’s 1933 series “Erotique Voilée,” shows the model standing nude behind a printing press wheel, with his her left arm covered with ink and held to her forehead. It is valued at a price of €50,000 ($65,000).
There will also be readymades, including Object to be destroyed – Perpetual Motif (1971), a metronome whose pendulum features a photograph of Miller’s eye. The work is estimated at €25,000–€35,000 ($30,000–$42,000).