Marcel Duchamp

Marcel Duchamp as an elderly man, a still image from a film by Andy Warhol.
Still from Andy Warhol’s Screen Test film of Duchamp

The Hirshhorn Museum hosted an exhibit on Marcel Duchamp before Covid-19 hit, and during the lockdown I hoped the exhibit would still be there when the museum re-opened. Thankfully, it did and it did.

With gratitude, I recently went to the museum for the exhibit, Marcel Duchamp: The Barbara and Aaron Levine Collection. It granted my wish to see unusual works that provoked me into asking questions … what makes art “art”? … would the answer to that be different for every person you ask?

Examples: if someone bought a urinal, turned it upside down, called it Fountain, and signed it “R. Mutt 1917,” would you consider that art — or a joke? And what if someone bought a postcard of the Mona Lisa, drew a mustache and chin beard on the famous lady, and called it L.H.O.O.Q., would that be art or a joke?

Marcel Duchamp created/transformed both of those works. According to Wikipedia, Duchamp…

“rejected the work of many of his fellow artists (such as Henri Matisse) as ‘retinal’ art, intended only to please the eye. Instead, Duchamp wanted to use art to serve the mind.” — Wikipedia

I admired how Duchamp experimented, such as with Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 to capture a figure’s movement within a still image. Often he seemed to have a sense of humor, as with Why Not Sneeze, Rose Sélavy?

Various art movements — including Dada and Surrealism — tried to claim Duchamp among their ranks, but he avoided being formally attached to any particular movement. Seemed like an artist who wanted to go where his curiosity led him, and that wasn’t attached to a certain style.

Here are some photos I took of the museum and the exhibit…

The Hirshhorn's outer circle covered in scaffolding for repairs.
The museum’s outer circle bristles with scaffolding. 
The Hirshhorn's inner circle with an Exit and a Welcome sign. A view of the inner circle, taken from through a window covered in a screen.
Two views of the museum’s inner circle: Exit/Welcome signs and from inside, through a screen.
Mona Lisa with a mustache, a hat rack suspended from the ceiling, and a twisting spiral.
L.H.O.O.Q., 1919. Hat Rack, 1917. Rotoreliefs (Optical Disks), 1926.
A chess board on a table with a transparent top.
Duchamp was passionate about chess.
My drawing of an android placed on the portrait wall.
I added my drawing (Man Made Into Android) to the other contributions by museum visitors on the portrait wall.
Duchamp quote: I have forced myself to contradict myself in order to avoid conforming to my own taste.

Quote from Duchamp:
“I have forced myself to contradict myself in order to avoid conforming to my own taste.”

8 thoughts on “Marcel Duchamp

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