Exhibitions / Interviews

Dalí / Duchamp, Royal Academy of Arts

Interview with the co-curator of the Dali/Duchap exhibition, Desiree de Chair

Dalí / Duchamp is the first exhibition to present the art of two of the twentieth century’s most famous artists in exclusive dialogue. Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968) and Salvador Dalí (1904– 1989) are usually seen as opposites in almost every respect, yet they shared attitudes to art and life that are manifested in their respective oeuvres on many levels. Taking their friendship as its starting point, the exhibition will demonstrate the aesthetic, philosophical and personal links between them. Over 80 paintings, sculptures, ‘readymades’, photographs, drawings, films and archival material bring to life the myriad of connections between the works of these two very different creative and intelligent minds. Dalí / Duchamp includes loans from public institutions and private collections across Europe and the US.

The exhibition is curated by independent art historian Professor Dawn Ades CBE, Dr William Jeffett, Chief Curator, Exhibitions at The Dalí Museum, St Petersburg, Florida and Sarah Lea, Curator, Royal Academy of Arts.

Co-curator Desiree de Chair talked to Ex_posure about this unorthodox “artistic meeting”.

E.Z. Why have you chosen to stage an exhibition that highlights for the first time the relationship between these two seemingly unmatching artistic personae?

By staging the first exhibition on the relationship between Dali and Duchamp we wanted to offer our audience a new, fascinating and inspiring perspective, on both artists and their works.

E.Z. Can we speak of a real friendship between these two artists? What would you say brought them together?

Yes, both artists were real friends from the time they first met in the early 1930s until when Duchamp died in 1968. What brought them together were their shared interests in themes like identities, eroticism, science and playing chess, and above all a shared outlook on art and life through a combination of humour and skepticism.

E.Z. What is the exhibition’s most important achievement according to you?

For the exhibition we managed to obtain major loans from other collections that don’t usually travel, such as Duchamp’s The Large Glass from the Tate and Dali’s Christ of Saint John of the Cross from Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow – the Glaswegians best-loved artwork in their collection.

E.Z. To what extend and in what ways did Duchamp influence Dali’s ideas or work? and what about Dali’s mark on Duchamp’s work?

Were these influences recognized by both artists?

Both artists greatly appreciated each other and their works which becomes evident on numerous occasions when they write about each other’s work, or, for example, when Dali assisted Duchamp with studies for his secret work Etant Donné.

E.Z. Does the Dalí and Duchamp Exhibition bring to light unknown so far aspects of each artist’s life, philosophy and work?

Yes, by showing works by both artists alongside each other we can discover new perspectives on the artists and their works, such as the eroticism in Duchamp’s readymades. We also discover that Duchamp actually loved making objects by hand despite his declared rejection of traditional art-making. Dali’s writings and studies of science and religion bring to light that, like Duchamp, he had numerous intellectual interests despite being a notorious showman.

Dalí / Duchamp exhibition,

Royal Academy of Arts

7 October 2017 — 3 January 2018

Duchamp and Dalí playing chess during filming for A Soft Self-Portrait, 1966 (photograph, 21×31 cm). Photo by Robert Descharnes and Paul Averty. ©Descharnes & Descharnes sarl 2016. Archivo Fotografico Pere Vehi, Cadaques
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