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Cadeau / Audace

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On the day of the opening of his first exhibition in Paris, Man Ray bought a flatiron, carpet tacks and glue. In the gallery he stuck a single line of the nails on the sole plate of the iron, and added the new work to the exhibition under the title ‘Cadeau’. It was his first Dada object in France. He planned to raffle it among his friends, but it disappeared from the exhibition that same afternoon.

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Collection book

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Specifications

Title Cadeau / Audace
Material and technique Cast iron and copper tacks
Object type
Sculpture > Three-dimensional object > Art object
Location This object is travelling
Dimensions Width 10 cm
Height 16.5 cm
Depth 10 cm
Artists Kunstenaar: Man Ray
Accession number BEK 1685 (MK)
Credits Aankoop / Purchase: 1995
Department Modern Art
Acquisition date 1995
Age artist About 31 years old
Exhibitions Brancusi, Rosso, Man Ray - Framing Sculpture (2014)
Alles kids (2016)
Gek van surrealisme (2017)
De collectie als tijdmachine (2017)
External exhibitions Dal nulla al sogno (2018)
Research Digitising Contemporary Art
Material
Object
Geographical origin The United States of America > North America > America

Author: Marijke Peyser

Soon after Man Ray arrived in Paris in July 1921, Philippe Soupault suggested staging an exhibition of Man Ray’s work in his bookshop Librairie Six. It opened on 3 December 1921. Most of the works on show had been made in the United States. The catalogue contained frivolous texts by Louis Aragon, Jean (Hans) Arp, Paul Éluard, Max Ernst and Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes, a fictional biography, a short explanation by Man Ray and a map showing the location.[1]

However there was no mention anywhere of a work made spontaneously that afternoon. During the vernissage Man Ray met a small, strange, talkative man in his fifties. It was the avant-garde composer Erik Satie, who spoke excellent English.[2] In the course of the afternoon the two men disappeared to a bar. A number of whiskies stimulated Man Ray’s imagination. On the way back he went into an ironmonger’s shop: ‘I picked up a flat iron, asked Satie to come inside with me, where, with his help, I acquired a box of tacks and a tube of glue. Back at the gallery I glued a row of tacks to the smooth surface of the iron, titled it ‘The Gift’, and added it to the exhibition. This was my first Dada object in France.’[3] Before Man Ray gave the object to Soupault as a gift, he took a photograph of it.[4] It was never actually handed over, however: the object disappeared that same afternoon. One of the visitors to the exhibition probably took it.

Man Ray made Cadeau three years before the publication of André Breton’s Surrealist Manifesto (1924). It was a Dadaist object, but it anticipated later Surrealist objects – certainly in the erotic implications of ripping clothes instead of ironing out the creases. A high point in the history of Surrealism was Les objets surréalistes, an exhibition staged in the Charles Ratton Gallery in Paris in May 1936.[5] Cadeau was not there. It had, of course, disappeared without trace.

 

Footnotes

[1] Baldwin 1988, pp. 89-90 and New York 2009a, p. 219, note 10: there is a copy of this catalogue in the collection of the Bibliothèque nationale in Paris.

[2] Satie was born on 17 May 1866. He was 59 when he met Man Ray.

[3] Man Ray 1963, p. 115.

[4] Man Ray/Martin 1983, p. 142. Penrose 1975, p. 71, wrote that Cadeau was intended for Satie. Patty Wageman wrote in Rotterdam 2014, p. 212, that Man Ray intended to raffle the object off among his friends.

[5] Man Ray also took part in this exhibition.

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