In Duchamp's own words...
an-artist, chess player, cheese dealer, breather,
See full length movie " Duchamp In His Own Words"
...and here's what some of his contemporaries had to say:
• André Breton:
"Marcel Duchamp is the only one of
all his contemporaries who is in no way inclined to grow older."
—from Duchamp: A Biography, by Calvin Tomkins, 1996.
• Robert Lebel:
"Originality nowadays is narrowly
connected with rareness. And on this point, Duchamp's attitude,
the only one that is perfectly uncompromising, whatever human
preoccupations he may surround us with, remains, to the more
conscious poets and painters who approach him, a subject of
confusion and envy.
It was as early as the end of 1912
that Duchamp suffered the great intellectual crisis that progressively
forced him to abandon this mode of expression which seemed
vitiated to him. The practice of drawing and painting appeared
to him as a kind of trickery that tended towards the senseless
glorification of the hand and of nothing else."
—from 'Lighthouse of The Bride' in Marcel Duchamp,
• By John Cage
The check. The string he dropped.
The Mona Lisa. The musical notes taken out of a hat. The glass.
The toy shotgun painting. The things he found. Therefore,
everything seen-every object, that is, plus the process of
looking at it-is a Duchamp.
He simply found that object, gave
it his name. What then did he do? He found that object, gave
it his name. Identification. What then shall we do? Shall
we call it by his name or by its name? It's not a question
One way to write music: study Duchamp.
Say it's not a Duchamp. Turn it over and it is.
—from 'Statements Re Duchamp,'
see Marcel Duchamp in Perspective, ed. Joseph Masheck,
• By Salvador Dali
The first man to compare the cheeks
of a young woman to a rose was obviously a poet; the first
to repeat it was possibly an idiot.
When Duchamp understood that he
had generously sown the wind with his youthful ideas until
he had no more, he aristocratically stopped his "game" and
announced prophetically that other young men would specialize
in the process of contemporary art.
Then he played chess itself.
—from Dialogues with Marcel
Duchamp, by Pierre Cabanne, 1987, pp. 13-14
• By Richard Hamilton
If everything that Marcel Duchamp
signed is to be regarded as a Readymade by Duchamp, then we
are in deep water.
Yet, although I asked Marcel for
the signature, I am quite sure that his replacing of it on
the 'DON'T FORGET' slip was a deliberate and beautiful thought.
He could have used any scrap of paper and, no doubt, the pad
was the handiest thing available but I see it as an entirely
typical Duchamp image.
It was a theory of Duchamp's that
the more things he signed the more he devalued the unique
—from 'Letter to Alison Knowles',
see duchamp: passim, a marcel duchamp anthology, ed.
Anthony Hill, 1994, pp. 174-75
• By Anthony Hill
Duchamp's answers and notions-seen
always as 'disinterested'-show a remarkable humane logic as
against his image (often deliberately calculated) as a recalcitrant
iconoclast. It was this humane logic which he brought to bear
upon those crucial questions we might call simplistic complexities
which preciously nearly all twentieth-century artists have
failed to see or wished to solve.
Duchamp's 'dialectic'-if we choose
to use that term-resembles a set of Chinese boxes, as many
as we can find (he leaves us to count them) and while manipulating
them is unpacking Duchamp, we find that he has invented conditions
for art which work both retrospectively and for the future.
—from 'Aimez-vous Duchamp', see duchamp: passim, a marcel
duchamp anthology, ed. Anthony Hill, 1994, p. 11
• By Harriet and Sidney Janis
He thinks and works in terms of
mechanics, natural forces, the ravages of time, the multiplex
accidents of chance. He marshals these forces...., and employs
them consciously to produce forms and develop objects, and
the results themselves he regards as secondary to the means
used in making them.
Duchamp's work falls into categories
of three, intentionally or otherwise: movement, machine concept,
and irony. Irony subdivides into three groups: selection,
chance, and the ravages of time. Chance figurations are designated
by Marcel as obtainable by employing the following three methods:
wind, gravity, and the device termed adresse.
He identifies the means of working,
the creative enterprise, with life itself, considers it to
be as necessary to life as breathing, synonymous with the
process of living.
—from 'Marcel Duchamp Anti-artist', see View, series
V, n. 1, 1945, pp. 19-54
• By Jasper Johns
Marcel Duchamp, one of this century's
pioneer artists, moved his work through the retinal boundaries
which had been established with Impressionism into a field
where language, though, and vision act upon one another. There
it changes form through a complex interplay of new mental
and physical materials, heralding many of the technical, mental
and visual details to be found in more recent art.
In the 1920s Duchamp gave up, quit
painting. He allowed, perhaps encouraged, the attendant mythology.
One thought of his decision, his willing this stopping. Yet
on one occasion, he said it was not like that. He spoke of
breaking a leg, "You don't mean to do it." he said.
He declared that he wanted to kill
art ("for myself") but his persistent attempts to destroy
frames of reference altered our thinking, established new
units of thought, "a new thought for that object." The art
community feels Duchamp's presence and his absence. He has
changed the condition of being there.
—from Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, by Pierre Cabanne,
The Large Glass. A greenhouse for
his intuition. Erotic machinery, the Bride held in a see-through
cage-"a Hilarious picture." Its cross-reference of sight and
thought, the changing focus of the eyes and mind, give fresh
sense to the time and space we occupy, negate any concern
with art as transportation. No end is in view in this fragment
of a new perspective. "In the end you lose interest, so I
didn't feel the necessity to finish it."
—from 'Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968),' see Marcel Duchamp
in Perspective, ed. Joseph Masheck, 1975, p. 147
• By Gabrielle Buffet-Picabia
Any work by Marcel Duchamp is always,
even for the best-informed of his friends, a source of surprise
These discs (Roto-reliefs) are
the result of a deliberate confusing of the values and arbitrary
limits by which , as is our wont, we separate the concrete
from the abstract, Art from the Commonplace. They are everyday
gramophone records on which Duchamp has traced, in colour,
flat geometric designs: spirals and circles. This optical
illusion created by their rotation produces unexpected forms,
objects perceived in relief....They provoke the same sort
of surprise and ambivalence and as such are of a piece with
the kind of humour frequently found in his work.
— from 'Fluttering Heart', see duchamp: passim, a marcel
duchamp anthology, ed. Anthony Hill, 1994, pp. 15-18
• By Robert Motherwell
Through his creative act, Marcel
Duchamp did not want to impose a new revolutionary language,
but to propose an attitude of mind.... He speaks in calm,
steady, level voice; his memory is prodigious, the words that
he employs are not automatic or stale, as though one is replying
for the nth time to an interviewer, but carefully considered...
Notice that he very frequently
utilizes the words 'thing' to designate his own creations,
and 'to make' to evoke his creative acts. The terms 'game',
or 'it is amusing,' or 'I want to amuse myself,' recur often;
they are ironic evidence of his nonactivity.
It seemed to me that he gave a
certain emotional stability to the group in exile during those
anxiety-ridden years after the defeat of France in 1940, when
the Nazis gained everywhere, for a time.
Duchamp's intelligence contributed
many things, of course, but for me its greatest accomplishment
was to make him beyond the merely "aesthetic" concerns that
face every "modern" artist-whose role is neither religious
nor communal, but instead secular and individual.
—from Dialogues with Marcel
Duchamp, by Pierre Cabanne, 1987, pp. 7-12
• By Man Ray
31 Rue Campagne-Première; The demi-sphere
aux mots exquis continue to rotate. But you never told me
about the Broyeuse de Chocolat. I had to find out for myself.
It was a pleasure, a much greater pleasure to find out by
myself. Would it be an indiscretion on my part to relate that,
walking down the streets of Rouen with my back to the lopsided
steeples of the cathedral, I was overcome by the a most delicious
odor of chocolate which grew stronger as I advanced? And then,
there they were, in a window, those beautifully polished steel
drums churning around in the soft brown yielding mass of exquisite
aroma? Later when questioned, you admitted your pure school-boy
love. Ton amour-propre. I translate freely.
Hollywood; merci, cher vieux, I
received your valise. Those who say you do not work any more
are crazy. I know you do not like to repeat yourself, but
only a real cheater can repeat himself with impunity. The
most insignificant thing is a thousand times more interesting
and fruitful than the best that can be said or done by your
detractors. Strange how those most suspicious of your pulling
their legs haven't any to stand on.
1945, New York; yes, and chess.
—from 'Bilingual Biography', see
View, series V, n. 1, 1945, p. 32 & 51
• By H. P. Roché
He was creating his own legend,
a young prophet who wrote scarcely a line, but whose words
would be repeated from mouth to mouth and from whose daily
life anecdotes and miracles would be constructed.
—from Marcel Duchamp, by
Robert Lebel, 1959, p. 79
• By Beatrice Wood
When I asked why he was keeping
such things around, he smiled. They had their purpose, he
said, but I should not give them a thought. Once I remember
pointing to a square box that had sugar in it. "What is that?"
I asked, wanting to be sympathetic to his ideas. "Cela n'a
pas d'importance," he would say. And I knew nothing was as
important as just being there.
Many think Duchamp was the greatest
painter of the period, the most inventive. I must confess
that, with the exception of Nude Descending a Staircase, I
really did not understand his work. He meant so much to me
personally, as he did to so many others. I was in no way the
great love of his life, but one who for a short time was close
to him. That I am now sentimental about him is something that
Marcel probably would not have liked. But that the man meant
more to me than his art is something that hewould have understood,
always smiling and murmuring, "Cela n'a pas d'importance."
—from Marcel Duchamp: Artist
of the Century, ed. Rudolf E. Kuenzli & Francis M.
Naumann, 1989, pp.12-17
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