Man Ray Beech Wood Chess Set

Elevate your chess game with this official reissue of the 1920s set designed by experimental, avant-garde artist Man Ray. Reimagined, conceptually shaped game pieces and chess board made in Germany from sustainable wood from the Black Forest region. Pieces and board sold as a set or individually. (more info)

$579.00
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  • Man Ray Beech Wood Chess Set - Kaufmann Mercantile1
  • Man Ray Beech Wood Chess Set - Kaufmann Mercantile2
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Man Ray Beech Wood Chess Set - Kaufmann Mercantile

In the 1920s, Man Ray designed a chessboard and game pieces inspired by his good friend, the pioneering artist-provocateur Marcel Duchamp, who had recently renounced art in favor of chess. Adhering to Duchamp’s lifelong directive “to put art back into the service of the mind” as opposed to a solely aesthetic or “retinal” experience, Man Ray’s chess set has a clear and conceptual design, injected with a bit of wit and whimsy.

Man Ray abandoned the traditionally figurative and decorative characteristics used to differentiate the pieces, opting instead for modernized, abstracted forms—yet, the game pieces still uncannily evoke iconic, historical associations. The King is the pyramid, a monumental Egyptian symbol of kingship, and the Queen is represented by the cone, alluding to the cone-shaped hats that medieval queens wore. Bypassing the usual bishops’s mitre, Man Ray’s Bishops are represented with a simple urn shape, referencing the sacramental wine. Instead of the traditional fortress tower shapes, the Rooks are simplified down to simple cubes. The Pawns are a twist on the classic silhouette with part of their rounded top lopped off. Man Ray interrupts the basic shapes of those game pieces with the more complex form of the Knight, which is based off of a violin head scroll as well as the golden spiral of geometry and natural form. While the other pieces are machined and either clear lacquered or stained with black, the Knights are sent to a family-owned wood carving factory in northern Italy to be hand-carved.

The distilled game board consists of classic alternating dark and light squares. Though simple in appearance, a special technique is required to create the board with end-to-end squares. Unlike a board that has a border around the edge, Man Ray’s chessboard pattern must be veneered and folded over the edges, a time-consuming process that requires immense skill to achieve straight lines and seams.

Man Ray’s clear, modern design earned the chessboard and game pieces a prestigious place in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 2012, the German company Amieco secured the exclusive rights from the Man Ray Trust to reissue the design. The game pieces and the board are all made from beech wood sustainably sourced from within the Black Forest region.

Use & Care

Dust with a dry cloth. Use a slightly damp cloth if necessary. Keep away from moisture and avoid cleaning agents.

Specifications

Size
Board: 16" wide x 16" long x 1" high (41 x 41 x 3 cm)
Pieces: 3.25" high x 1.5" wide x 1.5" long (8 x 4 x 4 cm)

Materials
Beech wood
Clear lacquer and black stain

Made in
Germany

Key Points
- Conceptual design by renowned artist Man Ray originally created for Marcel Duchamp
- Made from sustainably harvested beech wood
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