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Marcel Duchamp

Judith Housez

For years now he has been considered a chromo. He symbolizes all avant-gardes to such a point that we only know a few fragments of his identity, which in turn have become universal symbols: the urinal, the bicycle wheel, as many chess games as you can take, the angular profile of an old wise man in which a pipe is set. The public does not know much more than that and Duchamp has remained a total mystery. Now a new biography will unveil it for us. A newcomer in the publishing world has met the challenge, writing in a nervous style and accumulating references and anecdotes, and thus offering us a book that is very pleasant to read. The pleasure is derived from the discovery of another, non-transfixed Duchamp. Through these pages rises the obedient son of a notary who visits the brothels together with the butcher’s son. When he is no longer a spring chicken and rather a confirmed bachelor we see him falling in love with Mary Reynolds and then with Teeny, abandoned by Pierre Matisse. We discover the depth of his friendships as he corresponds for many decades with Picabia and Pierre-Henri Roché. We even become familiar with an accomplished careerist, doing all he can to have his works grouped together in a few, essential collections (such as that of the Arensberg couple, in Philadelphia)… and with a clever art dealer as he gets rid of his inheritance to buy 19 of Brancusi’s sculptures. When one of them, Bird in space, is blocked in 1926 by the American customs, he played an important role in the modern definition of a work of art. Duchamp is truly a major figure in the art world…

•  Marcel Duchamp, by Judith Housez, 544 p., 2007, 21.90 €

Marcel Duchamp - Judith Housez

Review published in the newsletter #31 - from 25 January 2007 to 31 January 2007

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