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Man Ray Letters

Identifier: MRL

Scope and Contents

The Man Ray letters contain correspondence from Man Ray to Mr. Arne Ekstrom, a Manhattan art dealer, collector, and gallery owner, as well as one letter from Mr. Ekstrom to Man Ray. The collection includes a Man Ray exhibition poster from the Cordier and Ekstrom Gallery, Mr. Ekstrom's gallery, April 30, 1963 - May 18, 1963. The collection also contains three postcards from Man Ray to Mr. Ekstrom. The correspondence falls between 1963 and 1975, including one undated correspondence on a bookmark from Man Ray. Most of Man Ray's letters are written from his home in France to Mr. Ekstrom in New York City.

In the letters to Mr. Ekstrom, Man Ray discusses business matters such as selling and loaning his art, coordinating art with Mr. Ekstrom for exhibitions, depositing money from sales, and brainstorming ideas for new pieces, shows, and catalogs of his work. Additionally, Man Ray mentions Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) numerous times in his letters to Mr. Ekstrom, including mentions of a vacation they went on together in 1965, their fondness of observing chess games, and of Duchamp’s passing in 1968. Man Ray wrote frequently (spanning many years) about his painting Le Beau Temps (1939) to Mr. Ekstrom discussing its value, interested buyers, and his desired price for it.


  • 1963-1975


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Man Ray Letters are the physical property of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Archives. The Museum holds literary rights only for material created by Museum personnel or given to the Museum with such rights specifically assigned. For all other material, literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. Researchers are responsible for obtaining permission from rights holders for publication and for other purposes as stated.

Biographical / Historical

Arne H. Ekstrom (1908-1996) was a notable New York City art collector, dealer and gallery owner. He was born in Stockholm, Sweden, on May 22, 1908 and moved to New York in the 1930s. In 1933, Mr. Ekstrom wed Parmenia Migel, who went on to be a prominent historian of ballet, and they had one son together named Nicolas. In the wake of World War II, Mr. Ekstrom joined the U.S. military and, upon release of confidential government files after his death, his family discovered that he specialized in strategic deception for the Allied powers. He continued to work for the United States government following WWII until 1955 when he returned to New York City immersing himself in the art world.

In 1959 in a joint deal with Paris gallery owner Daniel Cordier, Mr. Ekstrom opened the Cordier and Ekstrom Gallery on Madison Avenue in New York City, New York. Serving as the owner and director of the Cordier an Ekstrom Gallery in Manhattan for thirty-five years, Mr. Ekstrom opened the gallery to exhibitions of both established artists, such as Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray, and younger fringe talent, like Robert Ohnigian. He sought to build relationships not only with artists in the United States but also with artists across the Atlantic Ocean in Europe. Under Mr. Ekstrom’s management, Cordier an Ekstrom held a myriad of exhibitions demonstrating divergent and original postmodernist artists of the 20th century who had varying techniques and levels of prestige. Notably Mr. Ekstrom fostered a personal relationship with famous artist and photographer Man Ray (1890-1976). At one point in the Man Ray letters, Man Ray refers to Mr. Ekstrom as his “agent” of sorts. Mr. Ekstrom negotiated sales and lending of Man Ray’s art, and he coordinated and arranged exhibitions of Man Ray’s work inside and outside of the United States. They corresponded frequently about business, and Man Ray would even run concepts for artwork, photoprints, catalogs, and more by Mr. Ekstrom. Shortly before his passing in 1996, Mr. Arne Ekstrom gifted this collection of Man Ray’s correspondence to the Philadelphia Museum of Art archives in 1995.

Works Consulted

  1. John Russell, “Arne Ekstrom, 87, Director Of a Prominent Art Gallery,” New York Times, 19 May 1996,


0.25 linear feet (1 document box of 56 letters and ephemera)


The Man Ray letters are predominantly comprised of correspondence from Man Ray to Mr. Arne Ekstrom between 1963 and 1975. This collection also includes one piece of correspondence from Mr. Ekstrom to Man Ray, as well as a poster from a 1963 Man Ray Exhibition at the Cordier and Ekstrom Gallery in New York City.

Custodial History

Gift of Arne Ekstrom.

Processing Information

These materials were processed and described by Sophie Basalone in 2019.


Guide to the Man Ray Letters
Sophie Basalone
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Library and Archives Repository

Philadelphia Museum of Art
PO Box 7646
Philadelphia PA 19101-7646 United States