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Essential Duchamp

Posted May 1, 2019, 8:52 p.m. by T

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Essential Duchamp

Exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales

Yale University Press

 

It would prove hard to underestimate the impact of one Marcel Duchamp – a disruptor par excellence, whose body of work is to exert an influence over generations to come.

With the Art Gallery of NSW’s never not eclectic approach to securing and curating cutting edge exhibitions, their idiosyncratic overview of the artistic trials and tribulations of Marcel Duchamp is a multi-faceted mosaic of over one hundred and twenty exponates, which are mainly from the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Duchamp reservoir and archives.

What materializes as a result is one grand overview that highlights the significance of the oeuvre of Marcel Duchamp.

Not merely focusing on pleasing the crowds with his trademark works, i.e. Nude descending a staircase and the token pissoir, the exhibition starts by shedding on pieces detailing him finding his feet and takes the visitors on a journey that meanders through his post-impressionism and cubism infused formative years to then eventually arrive and culminate at the stage of the accomplished artists he is known for these days.

The accompanying book, which goes under the same title, i.e. Essential Duchamp, not only elaborates on Duchamp’s approach when it comes to elevating mundane, everyday thingamajigs through his selection into the spheres of acclaimed art but manages to illuminate how there was much more to Duchamp than meets the eye including the disciplines he pursued, which he did not get as much credit for, such as sculpting, creative writing, product design and directing films.

Both the retrospective and the book are odes to not only an unconventional and at times enigmatic pioneer (at some stage he only made appearances under the pseudonym of an alter ego) but also how concepts of art and the artist can be changed, challenged and amplified if the mind is tickled in equal measures as the eye – conceptual art par excellence without which current art movements would have not had fertile ground to grow and establish themselves on.

Sounds like lofty avant-gardist wank?

The opposite is the case and the beauty is that both the showcase and the book are engaging and provide an accessible introduction to Marcel Duchamp.

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