Man Ray was the ultimate networker. From the time he was twenty-three years old, when he asked Alfred Stieglitz to sit for a painted portrait, he had an uncanny knack for befriending important people. Through Stieglitz he met the collector Walter Arensberg, who introduced him to Marcel Duchamp, who was waiting at the Gare Saint-Lazare when Man Ray first arrived in Paris and who promptly ushered him to the Certà café, where he met the whole Dada crowd. Man Ray got along with everyone. As the years passed, he became known as the one member of the Dada-Surrealist group who never struck up an argument or abruptly broke off a friendship, the only person to win the approval of rivaling ringleaders Andre Breton and Tristan Tzara. As a member of the movement that specialized in the artful insult, Man Ray was the one who insulted no one.

Man Ray’s relation to the tradition of art was every bit...


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