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Man Ray (American, 1890–1976)
LOT ID: 73303
Cadeau, 1921

Mixed Media, Sculpture Edition, Cast Iron with Brown Patina and Copper Nails
6.5 х 4 х 3.5 in. (16.51 x 10.16 x 8.89 cm.)
Signed, stamped, Marked "Cadeau" and Signed "Man Ray" in white paint; numbered 1357/5000 on the handle accompanied by plastic card marking the number of the sculpture; The Multiple comes with a certified, signed, 4-page brochure from Arturo Schwarz.
Print/Casting Year 1974
Edition 1357/5000
Foundry/Publisher Luciano Anselmino - Turin
Lot description
Conceived in 1921 and executed in 1974 by Luciano Anselmino, Turin, in an edition of 5000 numbered and signed copies. (This is 1357/5000)

In "Cadeau" Man Ray takes a seemingly benign flat-iron and with a menacing row of nails, transforms it into something at once familiar and threatening. In expressing the conflicting subconscious desires to sooth and harm, Man Ray anticipates Surrealism. First created in 1921 at the height of Paris Dada, the sculpture’s title, ‘Cadeau’ (French for ‘gift’) adds the characteristically Dadaist maniacal, nihilistic edge.

Man Ray's Cadeau or ‘Gift’, is one of the famous icons of the surrealist movement. It consists of an everyday continental flat iron of the sort that had to be heated on a stove, transformed here into a non-functional, disturbing object by the addition of a single row of fourteen tacks. The transformation of such a mundane, domestic item into a strange, unnameable object with sadistic connotations exemplified the power of the object within DADA and surrealism to escape the rule of logic and the conventional identification of words and objects. Man Ray once said, ‘There are objects that need names.

In his autobiography Man Ray recounted the story of the making of the original 1921 Cadeau. On the day of the opening of his first solo exhibition in Paris he had a drink with the composer Erik Satie and on leaving the café saw a hardware store. There with Satie’s help, he bought the iron, some glue and some nails, and went to the gallery where he made the object on the spot. He intended his friends to draw lots for the work, called ‘Cadeau’, but the piece was stolen during the course of the afternoon. It is however, immortalized in the iconic photographic that was taken.

Arturo Schwarz, Man Ray’s dealer and author of a monograph on the artist, has written of this object:
"Cadeau" ("Gift") is a typical product of Man Ray’s double-edged humour. Its sadistic implications need not be stressed. Its erotic aspect is revealed by Man Ray’s remark: ‘You can tear a dress to ribbons with it. I did it once, and asked a beautiful eighteen-year-old coloured girl to wear as it as she danced. Her body showed through as she moved around, it was like a bronze in movement. It was really beautiful.

Man Ray’s intentions, which might be seen as merely to deride the iron’s functions are much more subtle. Man Ray never destroys, he always modifies and enriches. In this case, he provides the flatiron with a new role, a role that we dimly guess, and the probably accounts for the object’s strange fascination.

One of the most highly recognizable of the artist's trademark assemblages. Published by famous Italian Surrealist dealer Luciano Anselmo.

In MINT condition; in original packaging- beautifully packed by Anselmino -- just like a "Cadeau" should be!!


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Cadeau, 1921 by Man Ray
  • Cadeau, 1921 by Man Ray
  • Cadeau, 1921 by Man Ray
  • Cadeau, 1921 by Man Ray
  • Cadeau, 1921 by Man Ray
  • Cadeau, 1921 by Man Ray
  • Cadeau, 1921 by Man Ray
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