Fig. 1 Man Ray and Luciano Anselmino in the 1970s (photograph by Cécile Octors, Man Ray Trust)
MAN RAY (1890-1976) and LUCIANO ANSELMINO (1943-1979)
Luciano Anselmino originally worked at Fiat, in the department of external relations. Around 1967 he decided to change direction and opened the Galleria Il Fauno in Turin, and soon after I had the good fortune to meet Anselmino and discover his gallery.
I found his approach to be different to other dealers in Turin at the time. Fluent in several languages, he placed as much importance on foreign artists as he did on Italians. I often visited the exhibitions he organised, from de Chirico, Isgro and Carol Rama, to André Masson, Graham Sutherland, Mark Tobey, Hans Richter, Andy Warhol and Man Ray. Of all his artists, it was Man Ray whom I found most fascinating, and the first work of art that I acquired from Anselmino was Man Ray’s watercolour Les Beaux temps. I later met Man Ray on two occasions when he travelled to Turin to attend openings of his exhibitions at Anselmino’s gallery.
Anselmino’s support for Man Ray was not limited to the gallery, for he also collaborated with American and Japanese museums and critics from around the world to promote his work, as well as publishing several catalogues in addition to his own art journal Quinta Parete, and the catalogue raisonné of Man Ray’s prints. Anselmino’s generosity with his friends and his artists was returned in the loyalty they showed him.
Man Ray was no exception. More than just close friends, in 1974 Man Ray chose Anselmino to be his exclusive representative in Europe. As testify the amount of friendly dedications from the author, the written declarations of Man Ray before witnesses (10/03/1971), his delegation of power via a notary (Maître Perotti from Turin, deed of the 22/05/1972) as well as a wrtitten letter (01/01/1974), in which he entrusted Anselmino to expertise and authenticate his works worldwide.
Their collaboration was active to very end of Man Ray’s life. The year of Man Ray’s death, Anselmino’s copy of one their last projects, the 1976 reprint of A Book of Divers Writings by Adon Lacroix, includes the affectionate handwritten dedication: “I say – what’s new, Luciano? Here’s what’s new, Man. Thank you, Luciano. Man Ray 1976.”
The comments and opinions in this article are those of the author alone.
Fig. 2 Man Ray, Juliet Man Ray and Luciano Anselmino (centre) at an exhibition of Man Ray's works, Galleria Il Fauno, Turin
Fig. 3 Man Ray and Luciano Anselmino, Paris, in the 1970s (Man Ray Trust)
Man Ray and Luciano Anselmino: the artist and his dealer
Man Ray valued freedom, both artistic and personal, above all other qualities. His desire for freedom led him to work in whichever medium was most suitable for his subject, from painting to photography, from object making to prints. Man Ray’s complex and varied output was to prove challenging for any single dealer. Luciano Anselmino was one of several charismatic Italian dealers who conceived of innovative ways of promoting Man Ray during the 1960s and 1970s, in the closing chapter of the artist’s career.
Anselmino met Man Ray in 1968, shortly after he had established his Galleria Il Fauno in Turin. The two men soon became close friends, despite a difference in age of over 50 years. Over the following 8 years until the artist’s death in 1976, Anselmino tirelessly promoted Man Ray’s work as well as providing material support whether at home in Paris or funding trips abroad. He organised six one-man shows at his own gallery, and was involved in many more at other commercial venues and museums around the world. In a letter to Man Ray in 1973, en route between Tokyo and Los Angeles, Anselmino characterised himself as the artist’s “ambassadeur – volant”.
Like Alexander Iolas, the renowned Greek dealer of Surrealism to whom he was something of a protégé, Anselmino was a committed salesman, skilfully bringing Man Ray’s work to new audiences and collectors. He both consolidated and capitalised on Man Ray’s reputation as a central figure of Dada and Surrealism, encouraging him to show new versions of historic works alongside recent paintings. These included editions of well-known objects – he sponsored almost 20 editions including the seminal Perpetual Motif, Ce qui manque à nous tous, Pechâge and Cadeau – as well as photographic portfolios, a great number of prints and lithographs, and facsimiles of selected Dada publications.
While Man Ray occupied a special place in Anselmino’s stable – the dealer signed one letter to the artist “ton fils” – he also organised exhibitions of artists from within and around the Surrealist orbit – Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Hans Bellmer, Hans Richter – and the next generation, including Christo, Allan Kaprow, Carol Rama, Yves Klein and Andy Warhol, who he represented in Italy. Generous in nature, he encouraged collaboration between his artists, most famously when he commissioned Andy Warhol to make a series of portraits of Man Ray in 1974 done after Warhol’s Polaroids taken during a photographic session arranged by Anselmino at Man Ray’s Paris studio the previous year. Warhol’s portraits of Man were shown in a joint collaboration with Iolas at his Milan gallery in 1974, which Anselmino took over entirely the following year and where he worked until his death in 1979.
“If, during all these years, I went on loving art I owe it only to you. And this is the absolute truth. I began to appreciate art looking at your works […] I know your life almost as I know mine and I admire you and I hold you in high esteem because you always remained coherent and faithful to your art even in your private life. You made of yourself a masterpiece.” (Luciano Anselmino, letter to Man Ray, 1st January 1973).
Co-author of the Catalogue raisonné of the Paintings of Man Ray
Vice-Président of Sotheby's France
Sotheby’s would like to express its gratitude to Edouard Sebline, specialist in the life and work of Man Ray, for his contribution and extensive expertise in the preparation of this auction catalogue.
Fig. 1 Man Ray, “Object of Destruction" (Drawing by Man Ray), This Quarter, September 1932, p. 55
Perpetual Motif is one of Man Ray’s most famous objects, deceptively simple in its construction yet containing a multiplicity of meanings that varied with each version and each new title. Taking an ordinary mechanical metronome, Man Ray attached a cutout photograph of a woman’s eye to the pendulum rod so it would keep him company while he worked in his studio. The earliest version was made in 1923, titled Object to Be Destroyed. Man Ray recalled:
“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. The faster it went, the faster I painted; and if the metronome stopped then I knew I had painted too long, I was repeating myself, my painting was no good and I would destroy it. 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.” (quoted in Arturo Schwarz, Man Ray, The Rigour of Imagination, London, 1977, p. 206.)
The work took on a different meaning in 1932, with the breakdown of his relationship with Lee Miller who he met in 1929 and who became his muse, lover, and artistic collaborator. Distraught by Miller’s departure, he imagined a new version of the work to be called Object of Destruction, publishing a drawing of it in an avant-garde journal with the following text:
“Cut out the eye from a photograph of one who has been loved but is seen no more. Attach the eye to the pendulum of a metronome and regulate the weight to suit the tempo desired. Keep going to the limit of endurance. With a hammer well-aimed, try to destroy the whole in a single blow.” (Man Ray, “Object of Destruction (Drawing by Man Ray),” This Quarter, September 1932, p. 55.)
Man Ray’s wish to see the work destroyed finally came about during a demonstration of art students against the Dada exhibition where it was presented in Paris in 1957. Perhaps to ensure its survival, Man Ray was encouraged to make further versions, both unique examples for his friends and colleagues and editions, sometimes adding a new title. Indestructible Object was made for the artist Daniel Spoerri’s Edition MAT in 1965, and Perpetual Motif for Luciano Anselmino in 1970 – as in the present work – though now with one crucial change: he replaced the photograph of Lee Miller’s eye with a lenticular image, so the eye appears to blink as it rocks back and forth. Man Ray explained: “It finally annoys me always to repeat the same thing, so I introduced a small variation, I changed the eye of the metronome. Well, since I have repeated it now for the third time, I will call it Perpetual Motif. After all, the movement of the metronome is a perpetual motif.” (Schwarz, op. cit., p. 206.)
I thought of having an auction in the gallery of the objects, reserving the metronome for the last, then, when the piece is adjudicated, to smash it with the gavel as I announce ‘Sold.’ Man Ray, letter to Julien Levy, 28 February 1945 (Julien Levy Gallery records, Philadelphia Museum of Art Archives)
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