Last night, it was revealed that a second work by one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, Man Ray, had been found and is to go on display as part of a new show dedicated to the Surrealists at the National Galleries of Scotland.
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Earlier this week, the discovery of the first missing Man Ray was announced. It is a weird giant mobile made of coat-hangers, called Obstruction. The owner, Antony Penrose, was unaware that it was a surrealist artwork and had been using it to hang coats on for more than a decade.
Penrose discovered another work, however, called My Visting Card for Lee Miller, a jagged, ragged Dadaist painting from 1942, which has never been seen in public before. It had lain for years in a cardboard box in the attic of his Sussex farmhouse gathering mould.
Penrose is an avid art collector whose family life entwined with that of the great surrealist artists on display at the Dean Gallery’s summer show, such as Ray, Salvador Dali, Joan Miro and Pablo Picasso.
The lost works were given to Penrose’s parents, the surrealist painter and curator Ronald Penrose and acclaimed photographer Lee Miller – most famed for the wartime shot of her washing in Hitler’s bath – but both were somehow misplaced.
“You can lose a Man Ray very easily,” said Penrose, 63. “Lee Miller, my mother, was rather secretive in a way. She just stashed a whole lot of her stuff in cardboard boxes, which were then left in the attic of her farmhouse in East Sussex.
“After she died we kept on opening these boxes. My principal focus was on negatives and prints and manuscripts. And I’d ignored this box which I thought contained discarded artist’s materials until several years later. In the late 1990s, 10 years after she died, I got into this box at last and there, among the artist’s materials, was this fabulous little Man Ray.”
The coat-hanger sculpture was initially part of Ray’s show at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London in 1975 before being given to Penrose’s father.
“It arrived at our house in a large cardboard box,” said Penrose. “When my wife and I got married and we were setting up home we found this cardboard box of lovely coat-hangers so we started to use them. We did so for many years. But I could never understand why they had holes drilled in them. Suddenly one day the penny dropped. So I had to go around all our cupboards picking them out, reassembling them. It’s art made useful made back into art again.”
The exhibition, Another World: Dali, Magritte, Miro and the Surrealists, opened in Edinburgh yesterday. More than 300 art works fill the gallery, including Marcel Duchamp’s iconic Fountain – a urinal signed “R Mutt 1917” – and credited as one of the most influential works of art in the 20th century.
Another World is the focal point of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (SNGMA).
The majority of the works come from the SNGMA’s extensive surrealist collection, but 100 are on loan from galleries such as the Tate and private collections such as Penrose’s.
The gallery already holds two of his family’s Picasso paintings on long-term loan, including the Spanish master’s portrait of Miller, who had an affair with Ray. Miller’s eye features in many of his works including being attached to a metronome in 1923’s Object to be Destroyed, made after a particularly intense quarrel – while Penrose’s father staged Dali’s first UK exhibition in 1936.
Having such artists visit the family farm in East Sussex did not seem odd to a young Penrose.
“I grew up thinking it was perfectly normal to rub shoulders with some of the great figures of 20th-century art,” he said. “I realised our family was different when I returned to school after one Easter break.
“The French teacher made us all stand up in turn and say what we had been doing on our holidays, and I’d been to Cannes. He asked why I went there at this time of year. I said we were visiting Picasso. And everyone stopped and looked up in amazement. I thought everyone did that. That’s when I realised it was slightly unusual.”
Another World runs until January 9