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Swann Auction Galleries offer limited edition work that proved a vital step in developing abstract photography
Man Ray, Electricité, one of ten photogravures in a limited edition portfolio commissioned by La Compagnie Parisienne de Distribution d'Electricité in 1931. The estimate for the portfolio is $20,000 to $30,000.

NEW YORK, NY.- A rare limited edition folio of images by the hugely influential photographer Man Ray is up for sale at Swann Auction Galleries on April 18 with a top estimate of $30,000.

Electricité, which features 10 photogravures after Man Ray’s Rayographs, was a 1931 commission from France’s national electric company, La Compagnie Parisienne de Distribution d'Electricité, and was limited to just 500 copies.

Man Ray (1890-1976), who was one of the most celebrated artists of the 20th century, worked in photography, painting, print-making, and sculpture. After moving to Paris from New York City, he set up a photography studio to support his artistic endeavours, and subsequently hired Berenice Abbott as his assistant.

The Rayograph was a one-of-a-kind cameraless photograph, which he codified in the 1920s. The national electric company issued the commission to encourage popular tastes to shift from the use of coal, natural gas, and wood to a more modern source of energy, electricity.

Although originally a commercial promotion, the project proved to be an important step for Man Ray as he experimented with abstract, modernist images, all in his signature style, and demonstrates how France was a keen supporter of avant-garde emigré artists.

The 26 x 20.6cm images each carry Man Ray's signature in the negative and are enclosed in a vellum folder with the printed title. The folio is numbered 356 of 500.

The estimate is $20,000 to $30,000.

It will be offered as part of Swann Galleries’ Classic & Contemporary Photographs auction, whose other highlights include images by Robert Mapplethorpe (estimate $50,000 to $75,000), Ansel Adams ($40,000 to $60,000) and Irving Penn ($18,000 to $22,000).

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