The Man Ray estate wants out. The executor, Eric Browner, is 86 years old and the heirs would like to see some cash in their pockets. The problem is that the estate was valued at $20m half a decade ago, before the art market turned its remorseless gaze fully on Surrealism. The Wall Street Journal sums it up:
Today, Mr. Browner manages 15,000 copyrights for the artist and oversees licensing contracts worth roughly $300,000 a year—from Mandarin Hotel headboards embroidered with Man Ray’s images to Zara’s taupe-colored Man Ray shirts. The trust’s proceeds are split among a dozen heirs.
Mr. Browner said he’s been feeling family pressure lately to sell the archive before he dies. He has had discussions with the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum in Washington; both museums said they demurred […] Last month, a few curators from the Getty Research Institute came out to the trust, said Marcia Reed, the institute’s curator and head of collection development. Ms. Reed said she is “very interested” in the artist, but her team hasn’t yet presented its findings to the Getty board. […]
The trust’s decision to sell Man Ray’s studio contents has already irked some in the art establishment. Mr. Baum, the Surrealist dealer, dismissed Mr. Browner’s target price as “crazy,” given that “it’s the residue of an archive,” whose top works were cherry-picked years ago by auction houses. Other dealers who have looked through the archive peg its value closer to $6 million. The Browners stand by the appraisal.
Merry Foresta, an independent curator who worked on a 1988 Man Ray retrospective at the Smithsonian, said she worries the trust will be tempted to break up the archive and sell off its parts if they can’t eventually get their asking price. “The archive’s value for researchers hinges on it staying together,” she said.
The Surreal Selling of Man Ray (Wall Street Journal)