From Duchamp to Man Ray: Highlights from the Brandt Collection

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Dr. Arthur Brandt began his quest to create a collection devoted to Dada and Surrealism following a chance encounter with Marcel Duchamp, over a game of chess in a Manhattan park in 1955. The New York collector spent the next four decades passionately acquiring paintings, drawings, collages, objects and sculpture belonging to the Dada and Surrealist movements. Here, Sotheby’s Andrew Strauss, world authority on Man Ray and co-author of the Man Ray catalogue raisonné, discusses his personal highlights from the auction of the collection on 21 October 2017 in Paris.

Collection Arthur Brandt : Dada, Surréalisme et au-delà
Paris | 21 October 2017

From Duchamp to Man Ray: Highlights from the Brandt Collection

  • Marcel Duchamp, La Boîte-en-valise, série C, 1958.
    Estimate: 180,000–250,000 EUR
    Arguably one of the most intriguing and imaginative 20th-century works of art, La Boite-en-valise by Marcel Duchamp was conceived around 1935. By this time, Duchamp had created a substantial number of works and he decided to reproduce 68 of them in miniature. The objects were gathered together in a box that, when opened, revealed a retrospective of the artist’s iconic works to date, including a replica of his celebrated Fountain and a facsimile of L.H.O.O.Q., a humorous reproduction of the Mona Lisa. The so-called ‘Portable Museum’ proved to be so popular that seven limited editions were produced during the artist’s lifetime. Most artists crave a retrospective during their own lifetime; but Duchamp created his own as a work of art. Brilliant!

  • Marcel Duchamp, L.H.O.O.Q., 1964.
    Estimate: 400,000–600,000 EUR
    This humorous 1919 work is typical of Duchamp’s subversive approach towards art and his concept of breaking artistic boundaries. Here the artist makes use of a reproduction of the Mona Lisa and modifies it by giving the lady a moustache and goatee. He makes a bold statement by modifying the title of the work with the letters “L.H.O.O.Q.”. When pronounced rapidly in French, the phrase can be distinctly heard as “Elle a chaud au cul”, which translates as “She has a hot ass”. Daring and provocative to say the least.

  • Francis Picabia, L’Invention d’une femme au moyen d’une machine, 1915.
    Estimate: 700,000–1,000,000 EUR
    In this complex mechanical composition executed in watercolour in New York in 1915, Picabia invents a machine whose function cannot possibly be predicted. The artist provides the answer in the title of the work which translates as: “Invention of a woman by means of a machine”. Such a bold statement would surely have been recognised at the time as mad and illogical, but imagine how in today’s world, we would react to such provocation and impossibility.

  • Man Ray, Vierge apprivoisée, 1969.
    Estimate: 6,000–8,000 EUR
    In this small and late Surrealist object dating from 1969, Man Ray continues to provoke viewers by trapping a silver cast of a nude in a Plexiglas box. The title in French Vierge apprivoisée translates as “Deprived Virgin” however Man Ray, the masterful American who was dextrous in both English and French, provides us with an alternative title in English: Domesticated Virgin – Let me out. No further comment necessary.

  • Kurt Seligman, Bust of a man (Disagreeable man), circa 1933.
    Estimate: 60,000–80,000 EUR
    Seligman’s paintings do not often come to the market, and his Surrealist works of the 1930s, when he working in Paris as a member of the Surrealist group, are particularly rare. In this emblematic composition, circa 1932, originally titled Homme antipatique (Disagreeable man) and composed of biomorphic forms highlighted by sprayed paints, the artist depicts a figure with outstretched limbs attempting to catch birds and other flying creatures, reminiscent of earlier works by Joan Miró.

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