In 1942, Marcel Duchamp invited children to play hopscotch at the opening of one of his exhibitions in New York. Needless to say few of the guests were amused. When some of them came up to the children to try to tell them off, all of them replied innocently: “Mr Duchamp told us that we could play here.” What a better phrase to serve as the title of the Musée des Arts et Métiers exhibition in honor of the 50th anniversary of the artist’s death? The exhibition curator Julie Bawin brought together two artists deeply influenced by the “Duchampian” universe, and asked them to show their work within the museum’s permanent collection. Though it cannot be confirmed that Duchamp knew the museum well, there is no doubt his work was inspired by many of its objects. Mathieu Mercier and François Olislaeger take the collection as their starting point : while Mercier associates his own objects (mostly inspired by Duchamp’s “La Mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même” and the artist’s taste for eroticism), Olislaeger develops a narrative using comic books imagery that extends to mobile suspensions. Just like the 1940s children playing around Duchamp’s readymade works, both artists consider his heritage as the starting point of a fun game. With that in mind, it was no surprise to see how playfully the inauguration cocktail turned out: The museum’s guests all turned up in their most “Duchampian” attire, dressed as (naked) brides or gender-bending creatures, just like Duchamp’s alter-ego Rrose Selavy. All this with a little help from the namesake Champagne, which turned out to be the event’s most fitting partner!

 

Photos: Michael Huard
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