MARCEL DUCHAMP (1887-1968)
MARCEL DUCHAMP (1887-1968)
MARCEL DUCHAMP (1887-1968)
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MARCEL DUCHAMP (1887-1968)

French Military Paper

MARCEL DUCHAMP (1887-1968)
French Military Paper
signed, dated and inscribed '(From) Marcel Duchamp 1918.' (lower left)
Readymade: typed note, pen and black and red ink and pencil on paper
9 7/8 x 8 1/2 in. (25 x 21.5 cm.)
Executed in New York in 1918
Pierre de Massot, Paris, probably a gift from the artist, circa 1921.
Pierre André Benoit, Alès, France, until at least 1967.
Galerie Tarica, Paris, circa 1970.
Acquired from the above by the family of the present owners, circa 1970.
A. Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, New York, 1970, no. 250, p. 469 (illustrated).
A. Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, vol. II, New York, 2000, no. 352, p. 657 (illustrated).
Zurich, Kunsthaus Zürich, DADA: Ausstellung zum 50-jährigen Jubiläum, October - November 1966, no. 42, p. 69 (titled 'Ready-made ohne Titel'); this exhibition later travelled to Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, November 1966 - January 1967.
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.
Jacqueline Matisse Monnier and the Association Marcel Duchamp have confirmed the authenticity of this work.


Ottavia Marchitelli
Ottavia Marchitelli Senior Specialist, Head of The Art of The Surreal Sale


French Military Paper, (from) Marcel Duchamp, is likely the very first instance of a visual artist having transformed a product of his day job an occupation in no way related to the world of art into a work of art. It is one of eleven documented original readymades (as Duchamp designated them, always in English) that the artist created while living in New York during 1915-1918, at the height of his production of such works, coinciding with the First World War in Europe. Among the final wartime readymades that Duchamp created, French Military Paper appears to represent the artist’s expanding conception of how he defined such works, in which he might assist, rectify, or even provoke (in his terms) the chosen object into its final state.
As Arturo Schwarz noted in his catalogue raisonné of the artist’s work, ‘Duchamp made this list for his captain (The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, New York, 2000, vol. II, p. 657). The sheet records the names of four military attachés in the French Purchasing Commission who arrived on 1 January 1918, and required suitable lodging during their stay in New York. The subsequent inked crossing out of the names, and the final X in red over the height of the typescript, suggest that all such considerations had been attended to, and there was nothing further to be done. Possibly contravening whatever security precautions may have then been in force, Duchamp took the document home. No other work of this kind appears in the artist’s oeuvre. It is unlike other readymades of this period insofar as Duchamp, as the typist, created it entirely himself, in the war mission office, in response to a given situation and likely to a command as well. Once removed from this utilitarian context, the document-object takes on a different reality: It becomes a record of obscure persons and presumably insignificant events past, set in its own entirely removed temporal and circumstantial environment, that is, the viewer’s perpetually streaming here and now.

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