It’s over a century since French-American artist Marcel Duchamp made history by submitting, in 1917, a porcelain urinal signed R Mutt for display in an exhibition in New York.

Marcel Duchamp The Chess Game, 1910. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, 1950. © Association Marcel Duchamp/ADAGP. Copyright Agency, 2018

“Duchamp always had a very strategic – a playfully strategic – way of thinking about the institutions and the conventions of the art world. It’s possible to think about his art works as chess moves made in relation to them,” explains Nicholas Chambers, Curator of Modern and Contemporary International Art at the Art Gallery of NSW, where the most comprehensive exhibition of Duchamp’s work ever to be seen in the Asia-Pacific region will open this month.

While the urinal lingers in the public imagination, it was an earlier scandal that first put Duchamp’s name in the headlines. One of the highlights of the exhibition will be the artist’s 1912 painting Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2)– part of a large collection travelling to Sydney from the Philadelphia Museum of Art – which caused a sensation first in Paris, then New York.


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