Rare ALS from the Influential Dada Artist who Revolutionized 20th-Century Art

Item: 20594
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DUCHAMP, MARCEL. (1887-1968). Influential French-American Dadaist who revolutionized 20th-century art; known for his controversial Conceptual “readymade” piece Fountain. ALS. (“Marcel Duchamp”). 1p. 8vo. Paris, October 5, 1965. To Mr. Bell, likely California painter and sculptor LARRY BELL (b.1939).

“I am returning to New York Oct. 15th and could arrange to see you any time after Oct. 20th. When you are in N.Y. please call me up (AL4.8692) to see what can be done for your project…”

Born in Normandy to a cultured family, Duchamp was educated in the visual arts, producing early works influenced by Post-Impressionism, Fauvists and Cubism. He scandalized New York with his controversial Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 at the famous 1913 Armory Show, but also declared despite the success of his Cubist works, that “painting is washed up” and began experimenting with Dadaism.

Unable to serve in the military at the outbreak of World War I, Duchamp emigrated from France to the United States, residing in a New Jersey artist colony, advising collectors and founding the Société Anonyme, Inc. with Man Ray, an organization devoted to exhibiting and lecturing about modern art. Duchamp explored the definition of art with found objects which he called “readymades,” the most famous of which is a urinal that he entitled “Fountain” and controversially submitted to the 1917 Society of Independent Artists exhibition. He continued to push the envelope of what is considered art with his “kinetic works” and “rotoreliefs,” motorized assemblages of found objects, before quitting art entirely and devoting himself to chess during the 1920s and 1930s. He lived in Brazil and Paris before returning to the United States, settling in New York in 1942. Although he did not actively produce art, he continued to advise collectors, collaborate with such artists as Andre Breton and Max Ernst and had a profound influence on the art scene.

Marcel Duchamp and his most famous work of art, Fountain

It was during the 1960s that Duchamp once again entered the public eye, after being rediscovered by such artists such as Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, and it was in 1963, at the age of 76, that he had his first career retrospective. The show was held at Pasadena’s Ferus Gallery, “the nexus of an emerging LA art scene. The opening night party at the Hotel Green drew people like Andy Warhol, who a year earlier had exhibited his soup cans at Ferus, as well as young and eager local artists like Ed Moses, Larry Bell, Ed Ruscha and Joe Goode.” (“Ed Ruscha on Marcel Duchamp: ‘He was a guiding light,’” The Guardian, Riefe). Our letter is possibly written to Bell, a painter and sculptor who came to be part of the 1960s California Light and Space movement and whose studio Duchamp had visited several years before. The year of our letter, Bell held his first solo exhibition at New York’s Pace Gallery after which Duchamp invited the young artist to his home for tea. Poet and Warhol Factory member, Gerard Malanga, wrote a poem inspired by Duchamp’s home telephone number, Algonquin 4-8692.

In very fine condition and uncommon in ALS.

Rare ALS from the Influential Dada Artist who Revolutionized 20th-Century Art

$1250 • item #20594

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