Man Ray’s renowned photograph of Kiki de Montparnasse sells for an all-time high of $12.4 million.
Man Ray’s Le Violon d’Ingres (1924), a famous photograph featuring a nude woman’s back superimposed with a violin’s f-holes, broke the record for the most expensive photograph ever sold at auction on Saturday, selling for $12.4 million.
The sale came after a nearly ten-minute bidding war at Christie’s New York’s Surrealist art auction.
Two phone bidders with Christie’s New York and Paris-based photographers specialists Darius Himes and Elodie Morel competed for the vintage edition, led by auctioneer Adrien Meyer. After bidding reached unimaginable heights, the rare print eventually sold for $10.5 million, well above its $7 million high estimate and going to Himes’ bidder.
The print of Man Ray’s classic portrait of his muse Kiki de Montparnasse is considered an original photographic copy, making it extremely rare. It was created at the same time as the corresponding negative, making it valuable in the perspective of photographers.
The figure was three times higher than the previous auction record for a photograph, which was set in 2011 when Andreas Gursky’s 1999 landscape Rhein II sold for $4.3 million at Christie’s. The transaction also broke the previous record for a Man Ray photograph, which was set in 2017 when an original edition of Noire et Blanche (1926) sold for $3 million at a Christie’s auction in Paris.
Christie’s foreign photography specialist, Himes, described the work as “unique in the marketplace” before the auction.
The photograph is the most valuable item in the collection of New York collectors Rosalind Gersten Jacobs and Melvin Jacobs, who were fashion retailers with strong ties to Surrealist groups. In 1962, the Jacobs purchased Le Violon d’Ingres straight from Man Ray and have kept it ever since. Gersten Jacobs, a long-serving executive at Macy’s, passed away January 2019 at the age of 94.