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Signed Man Ray and numbered 40/40 (on the underside)
Metronome and photograph
Height: 9 in.
22.9 cm
Conceived in 1923, this work was executed in 1970-71 by Il Fauno, Turin in an edition of 40.

Private Collection, Paris
Private Collection, New York

Vancouver, The Vancouver Art Gallery, The Colour of my Dreams, 2011, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Man Ray, Oggetti d'affezione, Milan, 1970, no. 20, illustration of another version
Arturo Schwarz, The Rigour of Imagination, London, 1977, illustration of another version p. 218
Jean-Hubert Martin, Rosalind Krauss & Brigitte Hermann, Man Ray: Objets de mon affection, Sculptures et Objets, Catalogue raisonné, Paris, 1983, no. 31, illustration of another version p. 46
Ronny Van de Velde, Man Ray 1890-1976, Antwerp, 1994, illustration of another version p. 361
Mary Ann Caws, Surrealism, London, 2004, illustration of another version in color p. 114
Duchamp, Man Ray, Picabia (exhibition catalogue), London, Tate Modern & Barcelona,
Duchamp, Man Ray, Picabia, (exhibition catalogue), London, Tate Modern & Barcelona, Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, 2008, no. 78, illustration of another version in color p. 68
Janine Mileaf, Please Touch: Dada and Surrealist Objects after the Readymade (exhibition catalogue), Hanover, 2010, illustration of another version pl. 8
Surreal Objects: Three-Dimensional Works from Dali to Man Ray (exhibition catalogue), Frankfurt, Schirn Kunsthalle, 2011, p. 251, illustration of another version p. 185

Man Ray first created his famous metronome Object to be Destroyed in 1923, though the artist would recreate several iterations of the work well into the 1970s. Man Ray conceived of Object to be Destroyed as a readymade in the tradition of Marcel Duchamp; he transformed the ubiquitous mass-produced metronome into an artwork through the simple act of designating it as such. When his muse and lover Lee Miller left him in 1932, the artist created an ink drawing for the avant-garde journal This Quarter with the following instructions: “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 at a single blow” (quoted in A. Umland; A. Sudhalter, e.d., Dada in the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2008, p. 229-30).

Shortly after this publication, Man Ray replaced the original photograph in Object to be Destroyed with an image of Lee Miller’s eye. A remake of this updated object (the original was lost during the war) was exhibited in 1957 in Paris, whereupon student protestors took the artist’s instructions literally and destroyed the work. In the 1950s, Man Ray remade the object once again under the title Indestructible Object in a large edition. The title of the reworked object speaks to the indestructibility of the artist’s idea behind the work. Whether destroyed or preserved, Man Ray’s original intent remains. The present work, Perpetual Motif, was created as an edition of forty in 1970 for Luciano Anselmino, a major Surrealist collector and self-proclaimed “ambassadeur” to Man Ray. The new edition included a different eye; instead of Lee Miller’s eye, Man Ray attached a lenticular image so that as the metronome rocks, the eye appears to blink. Reflecting on the persistence of this creative endeavor throughout his body of work, Man Ray mused: “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” (quoted in A. Schwarz, Man Ray, The Rigour of Imagination, London, 1977, p. 206).

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