Distractions

Well it’s finally arrived — was it worth the anticipation? Well I’ve only managed a solitary visit so far, on a busy Saturday, so it was more of a drive-by viewing. Diving into the scrum to see the pieces wasn’t how I’d have liked the first visit to be but with my limited free time I couldn’t be choosy.

Duchamp, Man Ray, Picabia

The exhibit itself is broken into themes which the three protagonists share — Movement, Objects, Transparency, Glass, Light, Eroticism, and others. On first inspection this seems to work very well for Duchamp and Man Ray, but Picabia’s work immediately jars in certain themes, both visually and mentally. Dada and Surrealism brought these three together and forged friendships that would last 40 years until Picabia’s death in 1953.

Marcel Duchamp

Is this common dialogue sufficient to bring these three together as a coherent and comprehensive whole? On first impressions I’m not so sure — their individual careers are undeniably some of the most important in 20th century art and Duchamp in particular already has his place in the history books. Perhaps that’s the problem — are these careers so grand that they can not successfully share the stage with others?

Marcel Duchamp

Wandering through the themed rooms I found myself picking carefully through the pieces — a Duchamp fan since I was young I could not help but cherry-pick the best of his work and found myself eventually skipping most of Picabia’s work. Man Ray has always fascinated me as well and I enjoyed the pieces on show here. Of course there is also another chance to see one of Duchamp’s replica Large Glass pieces, made by Richard Hamilton in 1966 for the Tate, and the beautiful Green Box.

Marcel Duchamp

Ultimately the experience was very positive — I need to make a couple more visits to form a proper opinion. These three are of the utmost importance to 20th Century art and any chance to see their work up close is a treat. Duchamp comes across as the dominant contributor but that is to be expected, his work has incredible presence. As with many of the most important shows in the last 50 years, the curation will provoke as much debate as the content, and that can only be a good thing.

PS. The photos shown here were taken at the permanent collection at the Pompidou Centre in Paris (where photography is allowed), not the exhibition at the Tate where photography is not allowed.