ON POETRY, WRITING AND RANDOM CULTURAL MATTERS

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Duchamp at the Pompidou

If you like your Gioconda with added facial hair, then this is the show for you. It builds its way to The Large Glass, scattering fragments of the artist's notes en route, neatly arranged behind glass, of course, to this final piece.

Final to the show and to his oeuvre, as he worked on it in secret between 1946 and 1966 and it was only discovered after his death. The notes are rather lovely in their chaos, scribbled on all kind of pieces of paper in all shades of pencil and ink, but then, I am a sucker for writing. The glass itself did not impress me. Size isn't everything and it is, in any event, a reproduction. The original does not move from the US.

Duchamp is (in)famously the man who killed painting with his readymades, most notably Fountain, which isn't here by the way, in case you are going to be disappointed at not seeing a porcelain men's urinal. You can enjoy Bicycle Wheel though.

But the thrust of the show seems to be Duchamp in context. He was a good painter, if, dare one say it, heavily influenced by all around him, in a way that seemed to suggest he was struggling to find the right mode of expression. Each room tracks the progress of late nineteenth and early twentieth century painting, and to a lesser extent sculpture and photography, showing Duchamp's work against his contemporaries. My favourite of his was The Chess Players, although on balance I think his discomfort with the medium is apparent, whether Cubist, Fauvre or anything else. 

More than Duchamp, there are masterworks to enjoy from Cranach's Venus hiding in a corner which you might miss along with her very ugly feet, funny I have never noticed those before, to a book of Durer's, to Brancusi, De Chirio, Braque, Matisse and Redon. Probably worth a couple of trips and beats queuing for the newly opened Picasso Museum.

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