Home » Exhibitions » Exhibition Review: Dalí / Duchamp at the Royal Academy – 7th October 2017 to 3rd January 2018

Exhibition Review: Dalí / Duchamp at the Royal Academy – 7th October 2017 to 3rd January 2018

The Royal Academy presents Dalí / Duchamp which is the first exhibition to bring together the art of two of the twentieth century’s most influential artists. Whilst Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968) and Salvador Dalí (1904–1989) where often seen as two very different characters, they did share attitudes to art and life that led to a lifelong friendship. The exhibition includes over 80 paintings, sculptures, ‘readymades’, photographs, drawings, films and archival material that explores the connections between the two artists. The Dalí / Duchamp exhibition includes loans from public institutions and private collections across Europe and the US.

Both Duchamp and Dalí are probably best known for their surrealist work and it was whilst exploring this genre that they first met in the early 1930s. On the surface, the two men seemed complete opposites with Dalí the extrovert showman whereas Duchamp was a more introverted character. What the two artists did share was a sense of humour and the ability to challenge conventional views of art.

The exhibition is organised into three main thematic sections which consider how their friendship influenced their work.

The section entitled Identities features how the two artists began their careers  within the artistic movements of their day especially Impressionism, Fauvism, Cubism and Futurism. Although it was as a painter that Duchamp came to public attention, he quickly decided to experiment with other media which he later made his name. Photographs from this era show both artists playing with their personal identities and the role of the artist. Highlights of this section will include Duchamp’s The King and Queen Surrounded by Swift Nudes, 1912 and Dalí’s The First Days of Spring, 1929.

The Body and the Object section features works that illustrate how both artists were beginning to find their own artistic voices often focused on the theme of eroticism and surrealism.

Figurative and abstracted paintings, drawings and sculptures showcase the artist’s skills of combining everyday objects in unusual and origin way. Duchamp’s ‘readymades’ include Bicycle Wheel, 1913/1964 and the iconic Fountain, 1917/1964 with Dalí’s famous Lobster Telephone, 1938.

The final section, Experimenting with Reality show how Dalí and Duchamp were fascinated with perspective and illusion. Optical illusions feature in many of the works including Dalí’s Christ of Saint John of the Cross, c. 1951 and Apparition of Face and Fruit Dish on a Beach, 1938 as well as Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass), 1915 (reconstruction by Richard Hamilton 1965-6/1985).

This fascinating exhibition shines a light on two of the most well known artists of the twentieth century. Both are known for their surreal and original sense of humour in their art, however this sometimes obscures the often serious ideas underpinning their work. Both artists in their own way challenged the conventional views of art and the role of the artist.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended


£16.50 full price (£15 without Gift Aid donation); concessions available; children under 16 and Friends of the RA go free.

Video Review available here

For more information , visit the Royal Academy website here

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