Cadeau (Gift)

Cadeau (Gift)


Man Ray

(American, 1890-1976)

Hand iron, 14 tacks, paint, wood base

Overall: 15.3 x 9 x 11.4 cm (6 x 3 9/16 x 4 1/2 in.)

Delia E. Holden Fund 2011.198

Did you know?

The top of the iron is signed "EA MR," meaning "épreuve de l'artiste Man Ray" or "Artist's Proof Man Ray."


This strange object embodies the spirit of the Dada movement that erupted in 1916 in reaction against the chaotic destruction and mass slaughter of World War I. Man Ray made the original version in 1921 for the opening of his first solo exhibition in Paris. Upon leaving the gallery for a drink, he spied an iron for pressing clothes in a hardware store, purchased it, along with tacks and glue, assembled the object, and placed it in the gallery as a "gift" for a random visitor. By the time the show closed, the object had disappeared, snatched by an unknown admirer, only to be reconstructed by the artist later in life. By gluing carpet tacks to a hand iron, Ray transformed a common household tool into a threatening, nightmarish object. Deprived of its functionality and associations with domestic life, this perverse iron assumes disturbing associations with the world of irrational violence and sexual desire.

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