While the first major museum retrospective of portraitsby avant-garde photographer Man Ray (running at The National Portrait Gallery until Monday May 27) issetting pulses racing, they will accelerate still further with the opportunityto admire – and acquire – a complete set of the artist’s contact prints.London’s Atlas Gallery is inviting offers from £220,000 for the entirecollection.
This rare set of173 prints by the late American dadaistphotographer includes many of his iconic images (solarised portrait of a woman in first picture; self-portrait in third picture), along with rarely seenportraits of artists from his circle, such as Picasso (second picture) and Braque, andwriters such as Hemingway and Joyce. Of these, 45 works in varioussizes are on show at the gallery, which has dealt exclusively in photographysince 2000. As many of the prints are full frame, it’s an opportunity to seeraw, original versions of innovative images that later became celebratedthroughout the world.
Several sets ofcontact prints were created as a reference for Man Ray’s work during hislifetime (1890-1976); one is in the Pompidou Centre in the stylisticinnovator’s adopted city of Paris. But provenance-conscious collectors will beintrigued to hear that Atlas Gallery’s set was acquired by a European collectorin 2002 from a previous owner who purchased it directly from Man Ray’sdarkroom printer, Pierre Gassman – a technical genius known for hiscollaborations with some of photography’s greatest names, including Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank and Brassai.
“It is extremelyrare for these prints to come on the market, as they were mostly produced forreference,” says Ben Burdett, Atlas Gallery’s owner. “It is even rarer for agroup that represents so many aspects and periods of his work, so completely,to be offered. It’s not only an enormous coup to bring this exhibition to theAtlas Gallery, but a huge privilege for us.” And, indeed, a great excitement forcollectors, too.