The earliest known print of Man Ray’s Noir et Blanche photograph will cross the block at Christie’s Paris this autumn.
The surrealist masterpiece shows the Parisian model, muse and socialite Kiki de Montparnasse holding a mask made by the Baule people of Ghana and the Ivory Coast.
The photograph is an icon of the surrealist movement
Her pale skin is contrasted with its jet black glaze. The image is often shown with its negative, which reverses the tones.
First published in Vogue in 1926, it’s come to be regarded as one of Man Ray’s finest works.
It has been interpreted in a number of ways, including as a comment on the equality of the races, which was a radical statement during the 1920s.
Original prints are rare at auction and tend to pull in big results.
Sir Elton John paid $607,500 for a diptych (the original and its negative) at Christie’s New York in 1998 - a record for any photograph at the time.
This example is valued at $1.1m-1.7m.
If it hits that high estimate, it will become one of the 25 most valuable photographs ever sold.
The market for photographs has grown dramatically over the past 10 years, although the demand has been highest for contemporary photographers.
The lot is consigned from the collection of director Thomas Koerfer.
Elodie Morel, director of photography in Paris, said: “To be offering this masterpiece at Christie’s when the world’s top collectors are in town for the Paris Photo Fair, is a real thrill.
“The magic of this masterpiece is what inspired Thomas Koerfer to build his intimate photography collection around.”
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