Marcel Duchamp's enigmatic assemblage Etant donnes: 1. La chute d'eau, 2. Le gaz d'eclairage (Given: 1. The Waterfall, 2. The Illuminating Gas) has been described by the artist Jasper Johns as "the strangest work of art in any museum." Permanently installed at the Museum since 1969, this three-dimensional environmental tableau offers an unforgettable and untranslatable experience to those who peer through the two small holes in the solid wooden door. Celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the work going on public display, this exhibition consists of Duchamp's extraordinary assemblage, along with close to eighty works of art related to its installment, including all the known studies, photographs, erotic objects, and other materials.
This landmark exhibition and the accompanying two hundred-page catalogue explore the history and reception of Duchamp’s final masterpiece, as well as its legacy for contemporary artists such as Ray Johnson, Hannah Wilke, Robert Gober, and Marcel Dzama.
This exhibition is being dedicated to the memory of the late Anne d'Harnoncourt, the Museum's George D. Widener Director and C.E.O., who passed away on June 1, 2008. D'Harnoncourt was a respected Duchamp scholar who, as a 25-year old curatorial assistant, oversaw the painstaking installation of Étant donnés... at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, along with the artist's widow Alexina "Teeny" Duchamp and his step-son Paul Matisse. In 1973 she co-organized, with Kynaston McShine, the Marcel Duchamp Retrospective exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which later traveled to the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Art Institute of Chicago. Throughout her career, d'Harnoncourt sought to shed new light on Duchamp's enigmatic final masterwork and offered early enthusiasm and steadfast support for this exhibition project and its related catalogue, both of which she was looking forward to seeing and reading with eager anticipation.
Curator Michael R. Taylor • The Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern Art Location Galleries 181–183, first floor