Man Ray's a Main Man at Sotheby's

Suzanne Muchnic is The Times' art writer

As the spring auction season shapes up, it appears that a sale of works by Surrealist Man Ray at Sotheby's London will be a major event.

Nearly 600 of the artist's photographs, paintings, prints and "objects"--ranging from a bronze portrait of the Marquis de Sade wearing prison-bar spectacles to chess sets, altered metronomes and a hammer encased in a bottle--will go on the block March 22-23.

The collection, valued at $3.5 million to $5 million, comes from the estate of the artist's widow, Juliet Man Ray, her family and the Man Ray Trust. Most of the works have been housed at the artist's studio at 2 bis rue Ferou in Paris, where he and Juliet lived from 1951 until his death in 1976.

A 1939 painting, "Le Beau Temps" (Fair Weather), is expected to bring the auction's top price of $900,000 to $1.2 million. Depicting a harlequin and a mechanistic figure of a woman with a door between them, the painting has been variously interpreted by critics, but Man Ray considered it "my most representative work" and "the climax of my Surrealist period." It was the last major picture he painted before leaving Paris for America during World War II.

The artist, who was born Manual Radnitsky in 1890 in Philadelphia, grew up in New York and moved to Paris in 1921. He spent most of the 1940s in Hollywood, where he met his future wife, Juliet Browner, and became part of Southern California's artistic community. Among works in the auction created during his Hollywood sojourn is "Palettable," a cocktail table in the shape of a painter's palette, valued at $12,000 to $18,000.


ON THE ROAD WITH ART: Who said corporate support of the arts is dead? In the case of Alamo Rent A Car's new marketing campaign, "Alamo Presents the Art of America," it has simply acquired a new look.

The first exhibition sponsored under the program is "American Impressionism and Realism: The Painting of Modern Life, 1885-1915," a traveling show organized by New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and scheduled to appear March 12-May 14 at Los Angeles County Museum of Art. To promote the exhibition--and its own commercial interests--Alamo has published "My Impressions, A Travel Guide" as a gift to customers who rent luxury cars from the firm at its Los Angeles International Airport office.

The slim, hard-cover book matches 31 of the 80 paintings in the show with a few locations that actually inspired the works and many others that suggest similar themes. Tiny color reproductions of the paintings are keyed to spots on fold-out maps of New England and New York, Texas, Colorado and California.

None of the paintings depicts California, but that hasn't prevented the book designers from making creative substitutions. Local admirers of Maurice Prendergast's "Central Park" are advised to take a trip to Griffith Park. Fans of William Glackens' "Shoppers" are guided to--where else?--Rodeo Drive. Melrose Avenue is offered as a stand-in for George Luks' "Bleecker and Carmine Streets."

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