This groundbreaking and richly illustrated book tells a new story of the twentieth century’s most influential artist, recounted not so much through his artwork as through his “non-art” work. Marcel Duchamp is largely understood in critical and popular discourse in terms of the objects he produced, whether readymade or meticulously fabricated. Elena Filipovic asks us instead to understand Duchamp’s art through activities not normally seen as artistic—from exhibition making and art dealing to administrating and publicizing. These were no occasional pursuits; Filipovic argues that for Duchamp, these fugitive tasks were a veritable lifework.
Drawing on many rarely seen images, Filipovic traces a variety of practices and projects undertaken by Duchamp from 1913 to 1969, from his invention of the readymade to the release of his last, posthumous work. She examines Duchamp’s note writing, archiving, and quasi-photographic activities, which resulted in the Box of 1914 and the Green Box; his art dealing, marketing, and curating that culminated in experimental exhibitions for the Surrealists and his miniature museum, The Boîte-en-valise; and his administrative efforts and clandestine maneuvering in order to posthumously embed his Étant donnés into a museum. Demonstrating how those activities reflect the artist’s questioning of reproduction and originality, as well as photography and the exhibition, Filipovic proposes that Duchamp’s “non-art” labor, and in particular his curatorial strategies, more than merely accompanied his more famous artworks; in a certain sense, they made them.
Through Duchamp’s elusive but vital activities he revised the idea of what a modern artist could be. With this fascinating book, Filipovic in turn revises the very idea of Duchamp.
About the Author
Elena Filipovic, an art historian, is Director and Chief Curator of the Kunsthalle Basel. Among her curatorial projects is the traveling retrospective “Marcel Duchamp: A Work That Is Not a Work ‘of Art’” (2008-2009).
“In the 1970s Lucy Lippard remarked that Duchamp was already too much written about. How, then, is one to contribute effectively to the Duchamp literature today, given that it has become all the more voluminous since? In The Apparently Marginal Activities of Marcel Duchamp Elena Filipovic finds a way, and does so with great intelligence. She claims, rightly, that the dominant readings of Duchamp have led to an occlusion of the ‘fugitive actions’ undertaken by Duchamp vis-à-vis the institution of art, and it is there that she locates her incisive study—specifically on ‘his role as administrator, archivist, art advisor, curator, publicist, reproduction maker, and salesman.’ Rather than see these activities as ancillary to his life as an artist, Filipovic locates them, brilliantly, at its center; they are indeed only ‘apparently marginal.’ This is just the book to reanimate discourse around Duchamp.”
—Hal Foster, Townsend Martin Class of 1917 Professor, Princeton University, author of Compulsive Beauty and Prosthetic Gods
“When an artist becomes a curator today, the exhibition is often treated like an extension of the artist’s medium. A century ago when Duchamp, having ceased to consider himself a professional artist, undertook to help out his friends by designing their exhibitions, did he think like a modernist fixated on medium specificity? This is the classic question that lies behind Elena Filipovic’s careful research in the archives. In light of her new syntheses, she rewrites the question to read: just how did Duchamp open up new possibilities for curators? The answer: the medium was not his message. Duchamp worked without professing, in a series of small, nonretinal steps; he avoided creating a single, prototypical model. He left behind a panorama of new ideas. Filipovic has collected them into a book that curators will come to regard as a resource.”
—Molly Nesbit, Professor of Art History, Vassar College, author of Their Common Sense
“In 1959, Marcel Duchamp referred to himself as ‘a non-artist.’ Exactly what he meant by this has never been fully explained until now, a lacuna in the vast literature on this artist that finally has been filled by Elena Filipovic’s marvelous new book, the first to deal with the various activities that preoccupied Duchamp when he wasn’t making art, particularly in the realm of curating (not only his own work, but that of his fellow artists in various exhibitions that he oversaw). Filipovic argues that these activities occur with such frequency and consistency in Duchamp’s life that they must be considered an integral component of his creative endeavors. The result is an entirely new way to look at the work of this important and highly influential artist.”
—Francis M. Naumann, author of The Recurrent, Haunting Ghost
“Yes, another Duchamp book. The one we least expected, but perhaps the one that we now need the most. Elena Filipovic’s brilliant book locates a ‘curatorial’ logic at the heart of Duchamp’s (deeply fascinating, often confusing, and impossibly disparate) activities. But more crucial even than its tracing of a long-ignored curatorial modernism, this book will in turn challenge what it might mean to curate today, at precisely the moment curators increasingly claim an artistic dimension for their own work.”
—George Baker, Professor of Art History, UCLA, author of The Artwork Caught by the Tail
- The Apparently Marginal Activities of Marcel Duchamp
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Sculpture Undone 1955 - 1972
A sculptor who began working during the postwar period in a classical figurative style, Alina Szapocznikow radically reconceptualized sculpture as an imprint not only of memory but of her own body. Though her career effectively spanned less than two decades (cut short by the artist’s premature death in 1973 aged 47), Szapocznikow left behind a legacy of provocative objects that evoke Surrealism, Nouveau Realisme and Pop art. Her tinted polyester casts of body parts, often transformed into everyday objects like lamps or ashtrays; her poured polyurethane forms; and her elaborately constructed sculptures, which at times incorporated photographs, clothing or car parts, all remain as wonderfully idiosyncratic and culturally resonant today as when they were first made.
Well-known in Poland, where her work has been highly influential since early in her career, Szapocznikows compelling body of work is ripe for art-historical reexamination. “Alina Szapocznikow: Sculpture Undone, 1955-1972” offers a comprehensive overview of this important artists work at a moment when international interest is blossoming. Richly illustrated with over 150 colour plates, the catalogue features essays by the exhibition curators that touch on key aspects of her practice and historical reception, as well as an extensive annotated chronology that provides an in-depth exploration of the intersection of her life and art. Spanning one of the most rich and complex periods of the twentieth century, Szapocznikows oeuvre responds to many of the ideological and artistic developments of her time through artwork that is at once fragmented and transformative, sensual and reflective, playfully realized and politically charged.
- Alina Szapocznikow - Sculpture Undone 1955 - 1972
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You Have Did the Right Thing When You Put That Skylight In
Beautiful hardcover cloth-bound catalogue published on the occasion of Vincent Fecteau’s large survey solo exhibition at Kunsthalle Basel in 2015 (curated by Elena Filipovic). In addition to numerous full-colour reproductions of the exhibited works the book (including installation views and numerous photographs of individual works from different angles, including details) contains a new essay by Bruce Hainley. Also includes an exhibition work list, biography and bibliography.
Co-published byKunsthalle Basel, Matthew Marks (New York), Galerie Daniel Buchholz (Cologne) and greengrassi (London).
Edition of 1000.
Vincent Fecteau (b. 1969) has, over the last two decades, forged a singular aesthetic that mixes homespun materials (popsicle sticks, champagne corks, string, and the like), meticulous craft work, and a curious formal grammar. By turns wonky, erotic, extraterrestrial, or baroque—and sometimes all of these at once—his sculptures are built from small, slow accumulations in which layering, texture, and the work of the hand are all visible. You Have Did the Right Thing When You Put That Skylight In, the San Francisco–based artist’s largest exhibition to date and his first solo show in Switzerland, is a selection of sculptures spanning from 2000 to the present plus the premiere of a large new body of work. Comprised of images culled from magazines and other ready-made elements (shoeboxes, jewelry boxes, wicker baskets, and other lo-fi containers, all painted the matte-est of blacks), these wall sculptures manifest both a return to his origins (collage) and a significant new direction.
- Vincent Fecteau
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Specific Objects without Specific Form
Felix Gonzalez-Torres (1957-1996) is one of the most influential artists of his generation. This catalogue includes both rarely seen and more known paintings, sculptures, photographic works, and public projects, reflecting the full scope of the artist’s short yet prolific career.
Specific Objects without Specific Form offered several exhibition versions (and none the authoritative one), all the better to present the oeuvre of an artist who put fragility, the passage of time, and the questioning of authority at the centre of his artwork.
At each venue in which the show was hosted, the exhibition was co-curated with, and re-installed/re-imagined by a different invited artist whose practice has been informed by Gonzalez-Torres’ work. Those artists are Danh Vo, Carol Bove, and Tino Sehgal.
Specific Objects without Specific Form acknowledges that the way an exhibition begins and ends its ‘story’, the emphasis it places on one aspect more than another, the way it presents individual artworks, the juxtapositions it constructs, the mood it creates, in addition to the way an exhibition is discursively presented — all of these potentially shift the way that a body of work might be understood by its public. And all of these participate in the construction of the meaning and reception of an oeuvre, which is to say, nothing less than the construction of history.
Published retrospectively after the exhibition at WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels (January – April 2010); Fondation Beyeler, Basel (May – August 2010); and MMK, Frankfurt am Main (January – April 2011).
- Felix Gonzalez-Torres - Specific Objects without Specific Form
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