Marcel Duchamp: Étant donnés

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Marcel Duchamp: Étant donnés

About the Author:

Michael R. Taylor is the Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

About the Work:

In 1923, after abandoning The Large Glass, Marcel Duchamp let it be known that he had stopped making art in order to devote himself to his favorite pastime, chess. Thus the news, after Duchamp's death in 1968, that he had actually spent the last two decades of his life working secretly on an elaborate, final project was greeted with universal surprise. Accompanied only by a carefully compiled installation manual, the content of the piece remained mysterious while its bold realism shocked both Duchamp's champions as well as his detractors. In accordance with the artist's final wishes, the piece was acquired by the Cassandra Foundation and offered to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where it took its place nearby the artist's other major works in 1969.


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In his early thirties, Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968) convinced everyone that he had abandoned making art in favor of playing chess. But from 1946 to 1966, he was secretly at work in his studio on West Fourteenth Street in New York City. There he produced his final masterpiece: Étant donnés: 1º la chute d’eau, 2º le gaz d’éclairage, composed of a battered wood door through which one views a prone, nude female, holding aloft an antique gas lamp against a landscape of trees, waterfall, and sky. Unveiled as a permanent installation at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in July 1969, the year after Duchamp’s death, the work startled the art world with its explicit eroticism and voyeurism, as well as its trompe l’oeil realism. Since its public debut, Étant donnés has been recognized as one of the most important and enigmatic works of the twentieth century.

Published to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the original installation of Étant donnés and to accompany the first major exhibition on the work and its studies, this richly illustrated book presents a wealth of new research and documents that draw upon previously unpublished works of art, photographs, and other materials. The catalogue also examines the critical and artistic reception of Étant donnés, as evidenced by the subsequent work of Les Levine, Hannah Wilke, Robert Gober, Marcel Dzama, Ray Johnson, and other artists who have engaged with Duchamp’s provocative and challenging tableau-construction.


George Wittenborn Memorial Book Award 2009, Art Libraries Society of North America
Outstanding Catalogue Based on a Permanent Collection 2009, Association of Art Museum Curators
  • Hardcover
  • 448 pages
  • 11 1/5" x 9 7/10" x 1 1/2"
  • Yale University Press, 2009
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300149791
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