Bringing 'Something Else' to Kyoto
By Scott Martin
posted: 04-02-10
The installation process,
Duchamp's bottlerack:
National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto
Image Source

A major exhibition at the National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto (MOMAK) highlights many of retiring chief curator Shinji Kohmoto's "favorite" unclassifiable works of art from the collection, including several of Duchamp's readymades.

In the exhibit catalog, Kohmoto alludes to these works, which are officially catalogued in the museum's catchall "non-category," as containing a Duchampian "something else" -- a quality that "cannot be contained within classifications (nouns) that are commonly understood." This unclassifiable "something else" seems closely related to Duchamp's "infrathin," Duchamp's quality of the "infrathin," the "little bit extra" or unique aura that mediates between things and their connotations.

Kohmoto's career has concentrated on identifying and preserving this aura -- which allows objects into the musem -- in all its ambiguities. As he points out in his farewell catalog, "Professionals working in the system of the museum of modern art are well aware of the meaning behind Duchamp’s statement in 1961: 'Since the tubes of paint used by the artist are manufactured and ready made products we must conclude that all the paintings in the world are ‘readymades aided’ and also works of assemblage.'"

MOMAK will have editions of readymades like the Fountain, Paris Air, Bottlerack and the Standard Stoppages on display through May 5, along with a Boite-en-valise, Duchamp's famous "museum in a suitcase." This latter work originally inspired the museum to institute the "non-category" category, since it represents a work of reproduction, assemblage and even sculpture, but primarily the act of curation in itself.

(In Kyoto. MOMAK has more details.)


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