An important group of seven Man Ray Rayographs, discovered by chance in
the attic of a house in France, leads Christies Photographs
sale on 17 May 2006 at King Street. The auction features 120 lots of
photographs from some of the finest and most respected artists of the
medium from Alvin Langdon Coburn through to Helmut Newton. Estimates
range from 1,000 to 150,000.
American-born Man Ray, a leading figure in the avant-garde art circles
of 1920s and 30s Paris, created the Rayographs offered in the sale
(camera-less images made by placing objects directly on the
photographic paper and exposing them to light) in 1930 for la Compagnie
Parisienne deDistribution dElectricit (CPDE),
the Paris electricity company. CPDE boldly commissioned Man Ray to
produce a series of images promoting the domestic use of electricity.
The resulting portfolio Electricit, published in 1931 in an
edition of 500, included ten photogravures of Man Rays
The seven unique Rayographs to be offered in the sale were found in
1997 in the attic of the house the present owners had purchased two
years earlier from the niece of the previous proprietor, who was
remembered by a neighbour to have worked for CPDE. It is likely that
these seven prints had been stored away in the same attic for over 35
years before they were discovered, safely contained in a brown leather
folio under a thick layer of dust. For nearly another decade they would
remain unknown to the world at large.
This never-before-seen group comprises the original Rayograph for plate
one in the Electricit portfolio, and other experimental
variants of the published images. After nearly 80 years of obscurity,
this is the first opportunity for scholars and collectors alike to not
only see and appreciate but also acquire these unique photographs.
Estimates range from 30,000-50,000 through to
Two Vortographs by Alvin Langdon Coburn (estimates:
30,000-50,000 each), dating from 1917, illustrate an earlier
attempt to break away from conventional pictorial concerns through
camerabased images that reach near-abstraction and become virtual
modernist light sculptures..
The sale also includes a selection of the finest photo-reportage images
by Magnum agency photographers, notably Henri Cartier-Bresson and
Sebastia Salgado, as well as striking pictures by some of
the greatest photographers of the second half of the 20th century.
Among them are emblematic pieces by Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton,
Irving Penn, Hiroshi Sugimoto and the unclassifiable Peter Beard
a totally individualistic picture-maker who enhances his
favoured subject matter of African wildlife and beautiful women with
inscriptions, over-painting and collage.
Timed to coincide with the Photo-London fair at the Royal Academy,
Christies auction promises to be a highlight of a week in
which international interest in photography will be focused on London.