Marcel Duchamp – Étant donnés

I’ve stood in the Marcel Duchamp area of the Philadelphia Museum of Art for many hours. Visitors often mistake the artist’s final work for a service entrance. “Étant donnés”, the exhibition marks the 40th year since the piece was installed in Philadelphia. This is a great opportunity to shed some light on the world behind the door.

Marcel Duchamp - Exterior: Étant donnés - 1946-66
Marcel Duchamp, Exterior: Étant donnés: 1 la chute d’eau, 2 le gaz d’eclairage (Given: 1. The Waterfall, 2. The Illuminating Gas), 1946-66.

In the mid 1940’s, Marcel Duchamp publicly gave up on art to pursue his passion for the game of chess. Privately, the master would work on the creation of “Étant donnés: 1° la chute d’eau, 2° le gaz d’éclairage (Given: 1° The Waterfall, 2° The Illuminating Gas)” for twenty years. The influential artwork was discovered shortly after Duchamp passed away in 1968.

Marcel Duchamp - Interior: Étant donnés - 1946-66
Marcel Duchamp, Interior: Étant donnés: 1 la chute d’eau, 2 le gaz d’eclairage (Given: 1. The Waterfall, 2. The Illuminating Gas), 1946-66.

The exhibition contains all known studies and reference relating to the piece. Examining this material in it’s totality is a treat for the public and scholars alike. A fully illustrated 450 page catalogue written by Michael R. Taylor is available online here. I just ordered my copy.

Marcel Duchamp - Landscape collage on plywood (study for landscape backdrop of Étant donnés - 1959
Marcel Duchamp, Landscape collage on plywood (study for landscape backdrop of Étant donnés: 1° la chute d’eau, 2° le gaz d’éclairage), 1959.

The museum will also be showing a number of Duchamp’s “Erotic objects.” Many of these sculptures utilized the same casting technique employed by the artist for the reclining nude in the celebrated assemblage.

Marcel Duchamp - Torture-Morte - 1959
Marcel Duchamp, Torture-Morte, 1959.

Marcel Duchamp
Étant donnés
15 August – 29 November 2009
Philadelphia Museum of Art



Filed under:   Magazine


About Scott Lickstein, Look Into My Owl

Scott Lickstein is a visual artist and was the founder / primary writer for the art news source, LookIntoMyOwl.com until January 2013 when it merged with NOWhere Limited’s Magazine.





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