The oeuvre of Duchamp in a surprising new context

Marcel Duchamp, De ou par Marcel Duchamp ou Rrose Sélavy (La boîte en valise), 1952, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. Photo: Tom Haartsen. Marcel Duchamp, La Mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même (Boîte Verte), 1934 (uitgave), Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. Photo: Tom Haartsen.

Press release

Marcel Duchamp, artist ~ anartist
Until 19 January 2014

With his famous readymades such as his signed urinal and his bicycle wheel attached to a stool, Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) has inspired generations of artists from John Cage (1912-1992) and Jasper Johns (1930) to Jeff Koons (1955) and Damien Hirst (1965). Duchamp is seen as the Conceptual artist avant la lettre. This autumn Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen places Duchamp’s oeuvre in a surprising new context, full of personal associations, wordplay and humour.

Since the 1950s Duchamp has been hailed as the most influential artist of the twentieth century. Many see him as a detached and iconoclastic figure. Based on research by art historian Bert Jansen, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is exploring the context in which Duchamp’s works were created. Central to the exhibition in the Print Room is Duchamp’s work ‘De ou par Marcel Duchamp ou Rrose Sélavy (La boîte en valise)’ of 1952: a briefcase containing miniature reproductions of his works. These miniatures are displayed alongside texts, drawings, magazines and other documentary material by Duchamp and his contemporaries.

Childhood memories
The role of the artist in the readymade -an everyday object presented as art in a museum space- seems minimal. However, it transpires that many of Duchamp’s works are meticulous constructions full of references to personal experiences, events and people in his life. Bert Jansen uncovered these references by literally following in Duchamp’s footsteps, gaining insights into how Duchamp got his ideas by staying in his village, sitting in his room and looking in the window of Duchamp’s patisserie. The exhibition in the Print Room shows how complex Duchamp’s artistic practice really was.

Humour and wordplay are important elements in Duchamp’s work that have received too little attention until now. The exhibition includes the humorous drawings that Duchamp made for newspapers. The humour in these cartoons recurs in his later readymades. Many of his artworks are based on cryptic wordplays. A good example is the postcard of Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’ (1503-1507) to which Duchamp added a goatee and moustache in 1919 and the caption ‘L.H.O.O.Q.’. In French these letters sound like ‘elle a chaud au cul’ (she’s got a hot arse), probably a reference to Leonardo’s presumed homosexuality.

Bert Jansen
The exhibition is based on articles on Duchamp by art historian Bert Jansen published in Jong Holland, Metropolis M and Kunstbeeld. He has written art reviews for Het Financieele Dagblad since 1982.

Duchamp as inspiration
Duchamp’s readymades have inspired many artists. His influence can be seen, for example, in the work of his friend Man Ray (1890-1976), who photographed apparently arbitrary arrangements of everyday objects. Photographs and sculptures by Man Ray will feature in the major spring exhibition ‘Brancusi, Rosso, Man Ray: Framing Sculpture’. This autumn the museum is also devoting three galleries to an exhibition of works by Surrealist artist Salvador Dalí (1904-1981), who was a friend of Duchamp.