Just How Influential Was Marcel Duchamp?
50 artists revisit the legacy of the readymade.
A hundred and one years after Duchamp assembled his Bicycle Wheel (1913), setting in motion what remains one of the most influential ideas in modern and contemporary art, a group of over 50 artists are celebrating the legacy of the readymade in the exhibition “What Marcel Duchamp Taught Me”, which will open at The Fine Art Society in London next month.
Most of the participating artists—including Michael Craig-Martin, Susan Collis, Conrad Shawcross, and Martin Creed—will present artworks created specifically for the occasion and responding to the exhibition’s title in a wide range of media including sculpture, painting, video, and performance. The exhibition also includes existing pieces by key artists from the 20th century, such as Joseph Kosuth, Richard Hamilton, and Man Ray, whose iconic portrait of Duchamp dressed in drag as Rrose Sélavy is to be prominently featured.
More than 80 artworks will be displayed across the gallery’s five floors, offering plenty of space for site-specific installations. The light artist Chris Levine, for example, will project a hologram of one of Duchamp’s chess pieces on one of the gallery’s floors. “The chess move is a metaphor for the decisions we make and the infinite potentiality of outcomes in this holographic reality,” he said of the piece.
Keith Tyson has created a totem pole comprised of 36 esoteric heads referencing roulette and chess—two key motifs in Duchamp’s imaginary—which will colonize the gallery’s stairs. David Shrigley will present a readymade-esque fiberglass sculpture of a TV monitor, white noise included. Gavin Turk’s sculpture Rotor Rings (2012) pays tribute to Duchamp’s Rotoreliefs (1935), which the French-born artist, always seeking to extricate himself from the art circuit, presented at the Concours Lépine inventors fair in Paris and which subsequently played a big role in the development of Op art in the 1960s.
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue in which the participating artists explain the enduring influence Duchamp has had on their practice. The testimony of British artist Cedric Christie seems to encapsulate Duchamp’s reputation as the ultimate artists’ artist: “Picasso was an amazing black Arabian stallion in the paddock with all the other horses, but very special,” he said, “whereas Duchamp was more like a horse whisperer, going into the paddock and saying ‘you all “can”, but only some of you “will”,’ leaving us with an amazing possibility.”
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