A New Exhibition Reveals How Man Ray, the Enigmatic Surrealist Photographer, Bridged the Worlds of Art and Fashion
Man Ray, the American artist and photographer who all but defined the early 20th-century Paris art scene, is associated with many things. He’s associated with Surrealism and Dada, and the likes of Marcel Duchamp and André Breton. He’s also associated with Lee Miller and Kiki de Montparnasse, as well as the couturiers Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanelfor whom he took photographs beginning in the interbellum years, after moving from New York to Paris in 1921. As such, the celebrated shape-shifter bridged the worlds of art and fashion like no other.
Some of Man Ray’s best-known photographs include Noire et Blanche (1926), Lune sur le Visage (1930), and Le Violon d’Ingres (1924), the last of which nearly tripled the record for most expensive photo sold at auction when it netted $12.4 million at Christie’s in 2022.
Not only have Ray’s ingenious photographic techniques—stark shadowing, solarization, radiographs—been endlessly reproduced over the years, he’s also become a font of inspiration for fashion designers. His enigmatic style and humor have been reflected through the collections of Yves Saint Laurent, Martin Margiela, Dries van Noten, Celine, Lanvin, and Madeleine Vionnet, to name just a few. Many of them are Belgian names, which may not come as a surprise given the country’s history of avant-gardism.
In “Man Ray and Fashion” (through August 13) at MoMu, the fashion museum of Antwerp, the artist’s photographs are presented alongside the fashion pieces they inspired, highlighting the pivotal influence of his work on contemporary fashion. Here’s a selection of images showing Man Ray’s inimitable style and enduring dialogue with the world of fashion.
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