Société Anonyme Inc.,
Original photograph by Man Ray, printed on postcard paper. With Duchamp’s credit, the title, and copyright “S©A,” printed on recto and “Société Anonyme Inc., 19 East 47th Street, N.Y.” printed on verso. 1920. 13.75 x 9 cm. Photographed by Man Ray for the inaugural exhibition of the Société Anonyme in 1920, this is a gelatin silver print, printed by a commercial postcard printer. The photograph is of Man Ray’s unique work Lampshade. Société Anonyme, conceived by Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray and Katherine Dreier (a New York artist, collector and philanthropist) was to be one of New York’s first modern art museums, and a center for the study and promotion of work by the international avant-garde. In their first meeting regarding the founding of the museum, Man Ray not only suggested the museum be named Société Anonyme, but he also volunteered his services as a photographer. Upon hearing this, Dreier suggested Man Ray create images for postcards of the exhibited works. The original sculpture in the photograph, made in 1919, consisted of a strip of paper that was torn from a broken lampshade found in the trash and attached to a stand previously used to hold a dress. Man Ray was so pleased with the resulting form that he decided to submit it for the opening exhibition at the new museum Société Anonyme. The morning before the museum’s opening, the sculpture Lampshade could not be found. Unfortunately, mistaking the paper spiral as merely the leftover wrapping for the stand, the janitor discarded it with the other rubbish. Man Ray quickly created a sculptural alternative – this time in metal. “With satisfaction, I contemplated the substitution, taking pleasure in the thought that it would resist any attempt at destruction” (Man Ray, Self Portrait, 1963, p. 83). This photographic postcard is one of the few surviving documents of the original Man Ray work.