Indestructible Object

Copied Man Ray, Indestructible Object, 1965, wood, fiber, metal, and paper on cardboard, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Samuel M. Greenbaum and Helen Mark families in memory of Helen Mark Greenbaum, 1993.43

Artwork Details

Indestructible Object
Not on view
8 124 124 12 in. (21.611.511.5 cm.)
Credit Line
Gift of Samuel M. Greenbaum and Helen Mark families in memory of Helen Mark Greenbaum
Mediums Description
wood, fiber, metal, and paper on cardboard
  • Object — other — metronome
  • Performing arts — music
  • Figure — fragment — eye
Object Number

Artwork Description

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.

Luce Object 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