Long before Andy Warhol (1928-87) made art out of a common soup can, another artist turned the art world upside down by questioning what art is or what it can be. That artist was Marcel Duchamp (1887- 1968), a Frenchman who changed the rules in 1917 by entering a urinal for an exhibit in a New York gallery.
Duchamp conceived of the artwork, titled "Fountain," for a show promoting avant-garde art. Paying the $6 entry fee for an exhibit of the American Society of Independent Artists, he signed it with the pseudonym "R. Mutt" as a prank to his fellow avant-garde artists. It was never actually included in the exhibit. Nevertheless the piece has become iconic, and is widely considered one of the most influential modern artworks of all time.
"Art, ultimately, can be anything, and Duchamp is the person who first said that," says Matt Wrbican, archivist at The Andy Warhol Museum. "Twisted Pair: Marcel Duchamp/Andy Warhol," an exhibit at the Warhol museum organized by Wrbican, examines a unique artistic kinship between Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol, two of the most important and influential artists of the 20th century.
While many have compared the art of both artists before, this exhibit, which pairs dozens of their works and takes advantage of Warhol's personal papers, is the first to thoroughly explore Warhol's great interest in and indebtedness to Duchamp.
"I've been thinking about this show almost since the day I was hired 18 years ago," Wrbican says. "I could just see so many parallels, it was just so obvious to me."
Wrbican began working on the exhibit in earnest about three years ago, and as he says of those parallels, "the more I looked, the more I found."
For example, in one of the two seventh floor galleries that house the exhibit, a copy of Duchamp's "Fountain" sits on a brick base next to a painting of a toilet by Warhol from 1961. Not far from those, another Warhol painting from 1961 of a typewriter hangs next to a dust cover for a typewriter -- one of Duchamp's "ready-made" artworks as he called them -- titled "Traveler's Folding Item" from 1916. And a painting Warhol made of the Mona Lisa in 1979 is exhibited alongside an altered postcard by Duchamp featuring the famous face with a moustache the artist added in pencil.
These are just a few strikingly similar works by the two artists, and there are many more. As visitors will see, the paired works in this exhibit echo each other across decades in a variety of media, including film, painting, sculpture, installation, published works and ephemeral and written statements.
Wrbican contends that Duchamp may have held more influence on Warhol than any other artist. Although the artistic kinship between them was noted as early as 1962, recent Duchamp scholarship and access to Warhol's personal papers -- many held in The Andy Warhol Museum archives -- have underscored Warhol's enduring interest in and indebtedness to Duchamp. …