I have an artist friend who starts ranting angrily about Marcel Duchamp on Facebook every time he’s high (my friend, not Marcel). As the future of art is so important to him then it’s understandable, though I suspect most of his Facebook acquaintances picked up along the way neither feel strongly for or against Marcel, even if he so happens to be one of the founding fathers of modern art. The rants are quite entertaining, if nothing else. According to my friend, Marcel’s porcelain urinal marks the moment we pissed it all away. I like the idea he just turned up in 1917 with a piss pot in his hand, and voila! conceptual art became a thing.
Sadly there was plenty of hard work, experimentation and a slow, painful transmogrification from figurative to abstract through Fauvism and Cubism. They say necessity is the mother of invention, and having checked out Duchamp’s pre-Dadaist works it’s easy to see why he needed to try something different. He was certainly a much better conceptualist than he was a painter, and as with the Duchamp, Man Ray, Picabia exhibition at the Tate Modern in 2008, you came away with the uncanny feeling that the other artists exhibited had more heart. Indeed, my friend John who accompanied me to the Pompidou, took quite a shine to seminal Czech abstractionist František Kupka.
We passed from the sixth floor to the fourth floor which was much better, taking in just about every major artist of the 20th century you can think of (except perhaps Yves Klein and Andy Warhol?) I’m not sure if it’s a temporary or permanent exhibition, but I would heartily recommend a look there, and then say go no higher. So perhaps the next time my friend is fucked up on Facebook and running the arch-eyebrowed prankster down then I’ll join in (for what good it’ll do). Yeah, fuck you Duchamp with your rubbish in-jokes! We all know humour doesn’t age well, especially if everyone who’s in on the gag is now dead.
The following day John and I went to Le Corbusier Foundation, situated at the house he designed in west Paris for Basel-born banker Raoul La Roche in 1925. Quite lovely it was too if the scaffolding wasn’t all over it. The interior was certainly worth checking out in our blue plastic booties given to us at the door, but one will have to return after December to see it in its full glory (that’s when the work is expected to be completed). We also went to Ircam, but they refused to let us in for some reason.