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Indestructible Object

1965 Man Ray Born: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1890 Died: Paris, France 1976 wood, fiber, metal, and paper on cardboard 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 4 1/2 in. (21.6 x 11.5 x 11.5 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Samuel M. Greenbaum and Helen Mark families in memory of Helen Mark Greenbaum 1993.43 Not currently on view

Luce Center Quote

“Other contraptions of mine have been destroyed by visitors; not always through ignorance nor by accident, but willfully, as a protest. But I have managed to make them indestructible, that is, by making duplicates very easily.” Man Ray, “Self Portrait,” 1963

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In 1922, Man Ray created a piece titled Object to be Destroyed from a metronome and a photograph of an eye. In a 1956 Paris exhibition the piece was destroyed by angry viewers who considered the work meaningless. The artist immediately created a duplicate, which he named Indestructible Object, to show that the idea behind the work could never be erased. Further replicas have been known as Lost Object, Last Object (due to a printer’s error), and Motif Perpétuel. The piece was reproduced so many times that it developed a life of its own, demeaning the value of “original” art and craftsmanship in the true spirit of Dada. The one-eyed metronome even appeared on a political poster in Hamburg with the slogan “Choose the right beat,” an ironic use of the image that Man Ray would have approved.


Figure - fragment - eye

Object - other - metronome





paperboard - card

About Man Ray

Born: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1890 Died: Paris, France 1976

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