Marcel Duchamp Redux at the Norton Simon

The Marcel Duchamp Redux exhibit is showing at the Norton Simon right now, the museum that once was the Pasadena Art Museum and which hosted Duchamp’s spectacular first retrospective in 1963.  And this Sunday at 4 there’ll be lectures and fun to be had, so I’m definitely going.

They’re showing a dozen pieces from Duchamp’s history, including some “rotoreliefs” from 1953: motor-driven constructions with rotating color disks that haven’t been exhibited since that first retrospective 45 years ago.

They’re also going to be showing memorabilia from the time of his trip, but I doubt they’ll be recreating the famous image of Duchamp playing chess with a nude:

When you go to the museum, they may tell you some bullshit story about this photo, that it was taken as a visual pun in response to a 1922 Francis Picabia book cover

But actually Duchamp had almost nothing to do with it: the concept for the photo came from photographer Julian Wasser.  The model was writer and art-groupie Eve Babitz, who apparently met Duchamp and Wasser guerilla-style, in the early hours of morning, partly to get revenge on the curator, who snubbed her at a party, and partly because of the Beach Boys!

MS. BABITZ: Yeah. At the Pasadena Art Museum, [Wasser] said he had this great idea that I should play chess naked with Marcel Duchamp and it seem to be such a great idea that it was just like the best idea I’d ever heard in my life. It was like a great idea. I mean, it was, not only was it vengeance, it was art, and it was like a great idea. And even if it didn’t get any vengeance, it would still turn out okay with me because, you know, it would be sort of immortalized. I would be this, you know, here’s this Nude Descending the Staircase guy and now he’s going to be The Nude in the Pasadena Art Museum. But, of course, I said, you know, I didn’t think that the Pasadena Art Museum old ladies would go along with this. So-

MR. KARLSTROM: Was that part of what attracted you to the idea?

MS. BABITZ: Yes. Yeah, because it was like the Little Old Ladies from Pasadena, you know that Beach Boys’ song.

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