“This is the first major exhibition in the UK to explore the artistic, philosophical and personal links between two fo the twentieth century’s greatest artists: Salvador Dalí and Marcel Duchamp”

The exhibition was structured into 4 sections: Identity, The body and the object, Experimenting with reality and playing games. Looking at the body, I found that I was particularly drawn to Duchamp’s ‘The King and Queen surrounded by swift nudes’ 1912, and was interested in the deconstruction of figures. I would be interested in replicating a technique which cuts in my photography (as I have been discussing destruction in my own practise). Similarly Dali’s ‘Cubist self portrait’ 1923 plays with fracturing his images to abstract shapes whilst keeping a string of representation.

‘the King and queen surrounded by swift nudes’, 1912 By Marcel Duchamp
‘Cubist Self-Portrait’ 1923 by Salvador Dalí









Duchamp’s readymade was secret for ages and his pieces were only seen by other artists in his studio. However, during the rise of surrealist movement “in 1930 the surrealist followed Duchamp radical reverent, using found objects in a kind of concrete poetry that produced provocative conjunction such as Dali’s lobster telephone as a surrealist object functioning symbolically’

‘Lobster Telephone’ 1936 by Salvador Dalí

“Surrealist objects are in no mans land between art and life. They confused the animate with inanimate”- RA

When in the room which was studying the erotic, I found the curation of the space to be very successfully linked. The room had been painted a dark purple, with gold mirrors around the space, capturing the light and self in a very luxurious way. The room had central cabinet which fetishises these objects collected and presented as art by Duchamp. I noticed people start to stare in a deepened way which they wouldn’t do if they had seen the object outside of a gallery setting. Its interesting to see the fascination with the work, now that the readymade has become an accepted form of art work, however, I started to question how many people understood its history. I  assumed most were just there to observe because they know its important superficially, maybe they felt a social pressure to appreciate the artwork. The mirrors significantly heighten the richness of the environment in which the art is viewed and people start to view the work as relics from a master in the art world.

Inside this room, there was one of the smallest photographs being completely overlooked by the many.  “Photograph of shadows cast by readymade” shows the shadows cast on wall from Duchamp’s readymade objects when hung in space. This adds projected a negative space onto a wall, fabricating a piece which might be more widely understood as art. We can understand form and something being ‘created’/processed, which for many, defines what art is.  Yet in this exhibition, the public are celebrating the object and ignoring the photograph. Is this representational that we now accept the readymade as art or are we merely following others in their understanding?

‘Shadows cast by Readymades’ by Marcel Duchamp
‘Fountain’ 1917 by Marcel Duchamp

Sarah Lea writes for the RA, commenting on the importance of Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’ 1917 – “Thinking of Duchamp’s affinity with Dada, we can perhaps understand Fountain not simply as a joke on the audience, but as the provocation of a genuine and important question: what is art? Does the act of simply placing something in a gallery make it art?”

Marcel Duchamp’s ‘the bride stripped bare by her bachelors’ 1915 is a large glass panel which records a ‘metaphorical account of the encounter between bride and her bachelors’. The work is made of oil, lead, dust and varnish on glass in a metal frame. Much of the work was left unfinished when Duchamp went to New York. Duchamp didn’t want to use canvas and therefore limited himself to working on large glass for 8 years. Both Dali and Duchamp felt modern art had become detached from its earlier functions of being religious, philosophical and moral. Therefore they started to compensated by creating personal iconographies. His work is ‘enigmatic’- hard to explain/ interpret, however, I am fascinated by the interruption of paint on the surface of the glass (what should be a transparent window to whatever surrounds it). The scale of the piece is similar to an altarpiece with the work being defined as neither painting or sculpture – its almost a monument.

‘Bride stripped bare by her bachelors’ by Marcel Duchamp

The use of broken glass is something which is interesting to be in my practise. Glass is by its nature a medium which is meant to simply continue a reality- it shouldn’t fracture or alter whats behind it. So much of photography is held behind glass, I think it is an interesting medium to play with, especially as I am considering how to distress my own images. I could consider smashing glass and re-glueing it back together to see how this alters the reading of a photograph which is underneath its surface.

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