Monday, June 24, 2013

Marcel Duchamp is alive and well and living in Stockholm

And I find myself in the lovely capital of Sweden, where I eat a great deal of herring, watch the Changing of the Guard (because I Am A Tourist), go out and buy a toothbrush in broad daylight at 10:30 pm (because it’s midsummer) and walk up a gentle hill to the Moderna Museet for the Surrealism & Duchamp exhibition. The museum has an impressive collection of pieces by the arch-conceptualist, although closer inspection reveals that most of them are in fact the work (if by that we are discussing the person who physically made the thing) of one Ulf Linde; Duchamp visited Stockholm in the early 1960s and authorised copies to be made of his major works.

Does it matter? Since Duchamp’s appeal is all about provocative, incongruous ideas rather than fine craftsmanship, should it bother us that some of the pieces we view might never have been touched by the hands of the man to whom they’re credited? It’s the idea that matters, right? Well, yes, and after a century there are still people who are challenged by the idea of encountering a urinal in an art gallery. But ultimately, if the idea is so much bigger than the execution, why go to the bother of remaking a readymade? Why not just write down the idea on a PostIt note and put that in a gallery? But then Ulf Linde might copy the PostIt...

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