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By adding a row of nails, Man Ray transformed a household flat-iron into a new and potentially threatening object. The nails and burning metal suggest a violent eroticism at odds with the work’s title, the French word for ‘gift’. The original version, given to the composer Erik Satie, was lost but became well-known through Man Ray’s photograph of it. Although made at the height of Paris dada, Cadeau, like Man Ray’s other objects, anticipated the exposure of hidden desires found in subsequent surrealist objects.

January 2016