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Surrealist Man Ray’s 1938 London Underground poster to be sold for a five-figure sum at auction

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A Tube poster by American surrealist Man Ray, known for his mysterious and innovative Rayographs — a means of creating photographic images without using a camera but by putting objects directly on light-sensitive paper — is set to go for auction next month for a five-figure sum.

Commissioned by London Transport whilst Man Ray was in the capital in 1938, the poster transforms the Underground’s classic roundel logo into a mysterious flying object next to the planet Saturn. The slogan reads “— Keeps London Going”, a reference we imagine to the stellar work done from day one by London Transport in keeping city dwellers moving around London?

The poster will be auctioned at Manhattan’s Swann Galleries, who put forward that its message is “unclear”, which has provoked “much commentary” about its exact meaning. This surely ups the excitement around the poster’s auction and sits very nicely in the world Man Ray created.

A spokesman for the company said: “A straightforward interpretation places the London Transport system within the larger, smoothly running, elliptical orbits of the solar system, suggesting efficient and punctual service.” Whilst our morning commute might not always set our thoughts in line with this interpretation, this is certainly a Man Ray piece we would love to get our hands on.