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Christie’s to Hold Record-Breaking Surrealist Sale Featuring Artist-Made Jewelry

It includes works by Man Ray and Noma Copley.

visitors look at photo prints by american visual artist man ray, during a presentation at christies auction house in paris on march 14, 2022   the prints are part of a collection the surrealist world of rosalind gersten jacobs  melvin jacobs which will go on sale in new york on may 2022 the flagship lot of this auction, le violon dingres ingress violin, is estimated at usd 5,000,000 7,000,000, the highest estimate ever recorded for a photographic print in auction history   restricted to editorial use   mandatory mention of the artist upon publication   to illustrate the event as specified in the caption photo by emmanuel dunand  afp  restricted to editorial use   mandatory mention of the artist upon publication   to illustrate the event as specified in the caption  restricted to editorial use   mandatory mention of the artist upon publication   to illustrate the event as specified in the caption photo by emmanuel dunandafp via getty images

In yet another instance of surrealism’s comeback in both art and fashion, Christie’s is holding a sale of surrealist works from the collection of Rosalind Gersten Jacobs and Melvin Jacobs.

The collection is made up of artist-made fine jewelry by greats such as Man Ray, Claude Lalanne, and Noma Copley from the 1960s and '70s, as well as paintings, posters, and photographs of the era.

Christie's has already broken records this week, as last night it sold Andy Warhol's silk-screen portrait of Marilyn Monroe for $195 million (the most ever for a work by an American artist), but it is set to break more, as the Jacobs's collection is estimated to bring in more than $20 million at auction, with Man Ray’s Le Violon d’Ingres alone estimated to sell for $5 million to $7 million—the most ever for a single photograph at auction.

"It's very unusual to see 77 lots that were acquired directly from the artist and have been together for such a long time," Allegra Bettini, a surrealism and modern art specialist at the New York City auction house, tells BAZAAR.com.

man ray

The sale will take place on May 14 and comes as surrealism is having a moment in the creative fields. In fashion, Elsa Schiaparelli was the first to embrace the artistic movement and "think outside the box" ideology. In 1935, she famously partnered with longtime friend Salvador Dalí—the OG surrealist—on a newspaper print of her press clippings. One could say they invented the designer-artist collaboration.

Now, the fashion house, under the direction of creative director Daniel Roseberry, is at it again with the bizarro-chic: gold sunglasses with eyeballs, nose casts as earrings, and a gilded-lips bracelet that is "an ode to Dalí’s fascination with lips" and the artist's influence on the fashion house, per the brand.

The fine arts world is also re-embracing surrealism, and it's no surprise; the movement at its core was a reaction to World War I and tends to resurface in times of doom or uncertainty (hi, COVID-19 pandemic, racism-fueled hate crimes, abortion rights disaster, global unrest). This year, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Tate Modern, and Guggenheim in Venice all had surrealist exhibitions. The movement is also the theme of the 2022 Venice Biennale: The Milk of Dreams, titled after Leonora Carrington's same-name book, in which the British-Mexican surrealist painter and novelist described a magical world fueled by imagination.

man ray

The Jacobs, American fashion buyers, collectors, and patrons of the arts, had personal relationships with the artists in their collection, which makes the pieces that much more valuable.

"By being able to represent friends, like Noma and Man Ray, out in the world, Rosalind was able to take her collection with her, in a way, and really create this vision, this message of support and alliance for artists whom she loved, and she wanted to further their careers," Bettini says. "And also, she was an incredibly stylish woman who loved being a buyer, loved being a fashion director. So, being able to pair works of art that you could physically wear with her own outfits, that was something that she loved to do—accessorizing, but next level."

In the last three or so years, Bettini says there has been a heightened interest in wearable art and artist-designed fine jewelry pieces, not only because of the risks being taken in fashion today, but also because the pieces are considered works of art and, therefore, hold a different layer of value, in addition to just "the weight of the gold."

Some standout jewelry pieces in the collection include a set of gold spiral earrings by Man Ray, which he made in collaboration with goldsmith-jeweler GianCarlo Montebello (of Gem Montebello), inspired by a lampshade sculpture he designed. Man Ray created an entire capsule collection (about a dozen pieces) of jewelry based upon earlier sculptural projects or artistic ventures of his.

man ray

There is also a necklace of his called La Jolie, which is a gold silhouette of his wife’s profile, adorned with a lapis lazuli stone for the eye. La jolie means "the beautiful" in French, but it's also a nod to the artist's late wife, whose name was Juliet.

Another piece, a gold-and-malachite brooch shaped like an eye, is called The Oculist. "The idea of the eye in surrealism is so central, because when you depict an eye, it brings about the questions of: Who's looking? What are you looking at? And then, you bring it as an object—it's very illusory," Bettini tells BAZAAR.

Eyes are also being given a big place in fashion these days—see Schiaparelli, Fendi, Comme des Garçons, Logan Hollowell, and Libertine.

"There's this idea of playfulness that surrealism brings about—the idea of changing the way that we look at things," Bettini says. "And I think that's something that appeals to a lot of designers today, because it's bringing something fun, something unexpected, and in today's fashion world, people are taking more risks with how they dress. They're being more inventive, they're making more statements, and surrealism is a great pair for that."

noma copley

Noma Copley is the prime example of surrealist playfulness from the '60s and '70s, and yet her pieces are also entirely contemporary. A piece by her in the collection is a tie necklace made out of silver—which feels like it could be paired with an Off-White outfit today—and another is a pair of shirt-sleeve cuffs to be worn as chunky silver bracelets.

"Her work is very much taking everyday objects and creating them in gold and silver, and drawing attention to the mundane by putting it into a sort of higher, finer context," Bettini says.

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