Seminal Marcel Duchamp Painting Goes Under the Hammer for Doctors Without Borders

The nude has been classed as a national treasure by the French state.

Marcel Duchamp Nu sur nu (1910-11) Photo: courtesy Artcurial
Marcel Duchamp Nu sur nu (1910-11)
Photo: courtesy Artcurial
Marcel Duchamp Nu sur nu (1910-11) Photo: courtesy Artcurial

Marcel Duchamp,  Nu sur nu (1910-11). 
Photo: Courtesy Artcurial.

The NGO Doctors Without Borders is auctioning a painting by Marcel Duchamp steeped in art history to raise money for humanitarian aid.

Nu sur nu (1910-1911), which was left to Doctors Without Borders by Arnold Fawcus, a friend and colleague of Duchamp, will go under the hammer at the Parisian auction house Artcurial on June 6.

Fawcus, who was an art publisher, became friends with Duchamp when published the artist’s first monograph through his company Trianon Press in 1959. The pair then collaborated on subsequent projects throughout their lives.

Fawcus acquired Nu sur nu (1910-1911) from the wife of collector Henri-Pierre Roche and it remained in his family until they donated it to Doctors without Borders following his death.

“[Nu sur nu] was painted just months before the famous Nu descendant l’escalier (1912), a cubic work which was celebrated at the Armory Show in New York the following year,” Bruno Jaubert, director of the Impressionist and modern art department at Artcurial said in a statement.

The painting was classed as a national treasure by the French state earlier this year, which means that the individual or institution that purchase the work could, in certain circumstances, be awarded certain tax breaks.

“Being classed as a national treasure is an additional mark of quality for this painting, which is already quite remarkable due to its provenance,” Jaubert added.

Marcel Duchamp, Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2) (1912).Photo: Courtesy of Cleveland Museum of Art.

Marcel Duchamp, Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2) (1912) painted the year after Nu sur Nu (1910-11).
Photo: Courtesy of Cleveland Museum of Art.

It is thought that at the time of painting Nu sur Nu, Duchamp had an interest in Symbolism and was starting to push the boundaries of his work in search of a new dimension.

The painting was recently shown at the 2014 retrospective of Duchamp’s work at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. It was also shown in previous important retrospectives of Duchamp, including a 1966 survey at London’s Tate Gallery (1966) and an exhibition that toured between New York’s MoMA and Art Institute in Chicago in 1973-1974.


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