cover Marcel Duchamp: A Game of Chess

Marcel Duchamp remains a major influence in contemporary art, and Marcel Duchamp: A Game of Chess shows why. This French program includes original footage of interviews filmed during Duchamp's first retrospective exhibition, held at the Pasadena Art Museum in 1963, five years before he died. The program has voice-overs in English, with black-and-white footage supplemented by color shots of the art works. The first half focuses mainly on Duchamp's early oil paintings and his ease at adapting the very latest innovations in painting from Matisse and Cézanne to cubism and futurism. We watch Duchamp speak about his famous painting shown at the Armory in 1913, Nude Descending the Staircase, while standing in front of it. We gain insights into his Dada period, which continues to influence conceptual art today. Duchamp explains that that work was the result of a humanitarian protest against the war, against a society that was becoming "absurd and unacceptable." We hear a number of his ideas, such as "repetition is a form of death." Duchamp explains in detail the various levels of meaning of his 1923 work entitled "Why Not a Sneeze," which was a cage full of what resembled sugar lumps but which were actually made of marble. Original music by the French composer Edgar Varèse, Duchamp's contemporary, adds to the sense of the revolutionary nature of Duchamp's art production and ideas. Including visual metaphors and interviews with numerous French luminaries, this program addresses an array of audiences, from art and history buffs to those interested in new ideas in the 20th century. --Anne Barclay Morgan

cover The Secret of Marcel Duchamp

Marcel Duchamp kept a secret for over 20 years: while the art world had wrongly assumed that one of the 20th century's most important artists had given up creating art, Duchamp was building his final masterpiece, Etant Donnes ("given"). Duchamp didn't allow the piece to be viewed by the public until after his death in 1968. This left him shielded from the questions that developed after the piece debuted. Simply described, it is a peepshow. Through an old wooden façade, one looks through to see a sculpted open-legged nude lying in a field. The critics were stumped. What did Duchamp leave us with? This BBC documentary from 1997 dissects and examines the pieces of this assemblage. Including archival footage from a 1966 BBC interview and interviews with old lovers, friends, neighbors, and his stepchildren, the video sheds a wealth of light on the enigmatic Duchamp and his final work. In the end, we are left with a substantial basis to approach what becomes a remarkably personal piece. Serving as a fitting introduction, as well as an excellent source of material on Duchamp's later years, The Secret of Marcel Duchamp will even tame those stick-shaking critics who feel the man destroyed what he was never able to avoid--the world of art. --Ted Sonnenschein

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