MAN RAY Do Not Destroy (Object Indestructable, 1923-1975).
Wood and metal metronome with printed eye. 220x112x112 mm; 8 3/4x4 1/2x4 1/2 inches. Initialed and numbered 16/200 in felt-tip pen and ink on the printed justification label on the underside. Published by the New York Cultural Center, New York. Conceived circa 1922-33, executed 1974. Martin 31.
Provenance: Private collection, Chicago.
The original 1922-23 object, titled Object to be Destroyed (Objet à détruire) consisted of a photograph of an eye attached with a paperclip to a metronome. Man Ray (1890-1976) created the object spontaneously as he was painting in rhythm with a metronome in his studio. The act of destruction was an additional conceptual component to the art object, the dismantling also viewed as a creative act (most of Man Ray's original objects only exist in photographs). In 1932, after it had already been destroyed by Man Ray in his studio, he remade Object to be Destroyed to exhibit, this time with a photograph of the eye of his former lover, the American photographer, model and surrealist muse Lee Miller (1907-1977). Another replica was created after the 1932 version was lost when Man Ray fled Paris for New York in 1940. This replica was created for Julien Levy Gallery, New York in 1945, and called Lost Object (also called Last Object). It was one of 10 "Objects of my Affection" exhibited at the gallery in April 1945. In the cataloguing for Lost Object was the artist's intent, "It is still my earnest desire, some day while the eye is ticking away during a conversation, to lift my hammer and with one well-aimed blow to completely demolish the metronome." Anti-Dada demonstrators attending the 1957 Dada exhibition at the Galerie de l'Institut in Paris removed Lost Object and destroyed it.
Some years later, Man Ray collaborated with artist Daniel Spoerri (born 1930), who had founded his publishing house Edition MAT (multiplication d'art transformable), Paris in 1959. Spoerri was a pioneer in producing "multiples," or editions of three-dimensional art objects and specialized in kinetic works. Spoerri produced Man Ray's Lampshade, in 1965 and subsequently Edition MAT recreated Lost Object, this time with the title Object indestructible in an edition of 100. In 1970, Man Ray authorized another 40 objects to be produced by Luciano Anselmino of Galleria il Fauno, Turin and Milan. This next iteration of the object was called Perpetual Motif and featured Lee Miller's eye as a double printed image, made to blink as the pendulum swings. Perpetual Motif was followed by Do Not Destroy (Object Indestructible, 1923-1975), the last lifetime edition of 100 issued for the New York Cultural Center's 1974 Man Ray retrospective.