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May 9, 2021

Portraits of Marcel Duchamp in Drag as Rrose Selavy, ca. 1920s

When Man Ray moved to Paris, he was greeted by his friend and artistic compatriot Marcel Duchamp, who introduced him to members of the Dada circle of writers and artists. The two men had collaborated in a number of creative endeavors in New York, including the creation of a female alter-ego for Duchamp named Rrose Sélavy (a pun on the French pronunciation Eros, c'est la vie “Sex, that’s life”). Man Ray photographed Duchamp several times as Rrose Sélavy.





Just before he bid adieu to his work as an artist, Duchamp spent a limited yet fruitful portion of his career embodying a female persona he crafted for himself, who went by the name of Rrose Sélavy. While Duchamp adopted this female alter ego on a personal level, it wasn’t long before she began appearing by title and by face in the artist’s work.

In choosing Man Ray to take a portraits of Rrose Sélavy, Duchamp co-opted the most adept photographer of glamour on behalf of the 20th century’s most celebrated conceptual art. Man Ray gives Rrose the lighting, the sultry look, that made him so in demand in magazines such as Vogue. In a series of photographs in 1921 and later in the mid-1920s, his camera searches for Rrose in Marcel Duchamp, and eventually finds her.




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