Cornelia Parker on Marcel Duchamp


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Marcel Duchamp, the father of conceptual art, and responsible for that famously provocative urinal signed 'R Mutt, 1917', is the great life choice of fellow artist Cornelia Parker. She explains to Matthew Parris why he's influenced not only her work but that of so many other artists since his death in 1968. As an art student in the 1970s she recalls the attraction of Duchamp's 'readymades', such as a bicycle wheel or suspended wine bottle rack - manufactured items that the artist selected and modified, antidotes to what he dismissed as conventional 'retinal art'. They are joined by Dawn Ades, Professor of the History of Art at the Royal Academy, who's curated the current RA exhibition on Duchamp and Dali. Dawn recalls an occasion when, whilst she didn't actually meet Duchamp, she once saw him completely absorbed in a game of chess in a café in the Spanish seaside town of Cadaqués, whilst visiting Salvador Dali. They also discuss Duchamp's intriguing female alter ego, Rrose Selavy (Eros, c'est la vie or "physical love is the life") Man Ray's photographs of whom featured in some Surrealist exhibitions. We hear how Duchamp let the world know that he'd given up being in artist in favour of devoting himself to chess whilst still in his 30s. He played the game at a high level, representing France at international tournaments, whilst covertly continuing his art work. Cornelia Parker explains that his works spoke not just to the Pop Art and Op Art movements of the 1960s, but more broadly to American artists like Bruce Nauman and the composer John Cage, and whose influence can be seen today in the work of, for example, fellow English artist, Rachel Whiteread. Producer: Mark Smalley.

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