A New Exhibition Reveals How Man Ray, the Enigmatic Surrealist Photographer, Bridged the Worlds of Art and Fashion

“Man Ray and Fashion” runs through August 13 at MoMu, the fashion museum of Antwerp, Belgium.

Left: Man Ray, Solarization Fingers (1931). Right: Maison Martin Margiela, Spring–Summer 2001. Photo: Matthias De Boeck. Courtesy of MoMu.

Man Ray—the American artist and photographer who all but defined the early 20th-century Paris art scene—is associated with many things. He’s associated with Surrealism and Dada, and the likes of Marcel Duchamp and André Breton. He’s also associated with Lee Miller and Kiki de Montparnasse, as well as the couturiers Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel, for whom he took photographs beginning in the interbellum years after moving from New York to Paris in 1921. As such, the celebrated shape-shifter bridged the worlds of art and fashion like no other.

Some of Man Ray’s best-known photographs include Noire et Blanche (1926), Lune sur le Visage (1930), and Le Violon d’Ingres (1924), the last of which nearly tripled the record for most expensive photo sold at auction when it netted $12.4 million at Christie’s in 2022.

Not only have Ray’s ingenious photographic techniques—stark shadowing, solarization, rayographs—been endlessly reproduced over the years, he’s also become a font of inspiration for fashion designers. His enigmatic style and humor have been reflected through the collections of Yves Saint Laurent, Martin Margiela, Dries van Noten, Celine, Lanvin, and Madeleine Vionnet, to name just a few. Many of them are Belgian names, which may not come as a surprise given the country’s history of avant-gardism.

In “Man Ray and Fashion” (through August 13) at MoMu, the fashion museum of Antwerp, the artist’s photographs are presented alongside fashion pieces they inspired, highlighting the pivotal influence of his work on contemporary fashion. Here’s a selection of images showcasing Man Ray’s inimitable style and enduring dialogue with the world of fashion.

Items from Yves Saint Laurent's collection of 1965 with Man Ray's photograph <em>Le Violon d’Ingres</em> (1924) in the background. Photo: Stany Dederen. Courtesy of MoMu.

Items from Yves Saint Laurent’s collection of 1965 with Man Ray’s photograph Le Violon d’Ingres (1924) in the background. Photo: Stany Dederen. Courtesy of MoMu.

Left: Celine, Spring–Summer 2012. Right: Man Ray, Lee Miller (1930). Photo: Stany Dederen. Courtesy of MoMu.

Left: Celine, Spring–Summer 2012. Right: Man Ray, Lee Miller (1930). Photo: Stany Dederen. Courtesy of MoMu.

Left: Olivier Theyskens, Spring-Summer 1999 © MoMu. Photo: Julien Claessens & Thomas Deschamps. Right: Man Ray, <em>La Chevelure</em> (1927). Courtesy of Fondazione Marconi, Milan © Man Ray 2015 Trust / Sabam Belgium 2023.

Left: Olivier Theyskens, Spring-Summer 1999 © MoMu. Photo: Julien Claessens & Thomas Deschamps. Right: Man Ray, La Chevelure (1927). Courtesy of Fondazione Marconi, Milan © Man Ray 2015 Trust / Sabam Belgium 2023.

Left: Man Ray, <em>Rayographie “Kiki”</em> (1922). © Man Ray 2015 Trust / Adagp, Paris, 2023 - Photo : Telimage / Adagp Images. Right: Dirk Van Saene, Autumn-Winter, 2008-09 © MoMu. Photo: Hugo Maertens.

Left: Man Ray, Rayographie “Kiki” (1922). © Man Ray 2015 Trust / Adagp, Paris, 2023 – Photo: Telimage / Adagp Images. Right: Dirk Van Saene, Autumn-Winter, 2008-09 © MoMu. Photo: Hugo Maertens.

Maison Martin Margiela collections from 1996 to 2009. Photo: Stany Dederen. Courtesy of MoMu.

Maison Martin Margiela collections from 1996 to 2009. Photo: Stany Dederen. Courtesy of MoMu.

Left: Maison Martin Margiela, Spring-Summer 1990 © MoMu. Photo: Stany Dederen. Right: Man Ray, <em>Madame Toulgouat</em> (ca. 1930) Librairie Diktats © Man Ray 2015 Trust / Sabam Belgium 2023.

Left: Maison Martin Margiela, Spring-Summer 1990 © MoMu. Photo: Stany Dederen. Right: Man Ray, Madame Toulgouat (ca. 1930). Librairie Diktats © Man Ray 2015 Trust / Sabam Belgium 2023.

Installation view, "Man Ray and Fashion." Photo: Stany Dederen.

From left: Garments by Dirk Van Saene, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, Quinten Mestdagh, and Bernhard Willhelm. Photo: Stany Dederen. Courtesy of MoMu.

Installation view, "Man Ray and Fashion." Photo: Stany Dederen.

Left: Man Ray, Juliet (1945). Right: Jonathan Anderson for Loewe, Autumn–Winter 2022–23. Photo: Stany Dederen. Courtesy of MoMu.

Left: Man Ray, <em>Nancy Cunard</em> (1926). © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, dist. Rmn-Grand Palais / Man Ray 2015 Trust / Sabam Belgium 2023. Right: Dries Van Noten, Autumn-Winter 2008-09 © MoMu. Photo: Stany Dederen.

Left: Man Ray, Nancy Cunard (1926). © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, dist. Rmn-Grand Palais / Man Ray 2015 Trust / Sabam Belgium 2023. Right: Dries van Noten, Autumn-Winter 2008-09 © MoMu. Photo: Stany Dederen.


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