Duchamp and Dali playing chess during filming for A Soft Self-Portrait, 1966 (photograph, 21×31 cm)Photo by Robert Descharnes and Paul Averty. ©Descharnes & Descharnes sarl 2016. Archivo Fotografico Pere Vehi, Cadaques. 

LONDON.- Dalí / Duchamp is the first exhibition to present the art of two of the twentieth century’s most famous artists in exclusive dialogue. Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968) and Salvador Dalí (1904– 1989) are usually seen as opposites in almost every respect, yet they shared attitudes to art and life that are manifested in their respective oeuvres on many levels. Taking their friendship as its starting point, the exhibition demonstrates the aesthetic, philosophical and personal links between them. Over 80 paintings, sculptures, ‘readymades’, photographs, drawings, films and archival material bring to life the myriad of connections between the works of these two very different creative and intelligent minds. Dalí / Duchamp is located in Galleries 1, 2 and the Weston Rooms in Burlington House and includes loans from public institutions and private collections across Europe and the US. 

Duchamp and Dalí met in the early 1930s through mutual contacts in the Surrealist group. Their friendship was consolidated in 1933 when Duchamp made his first visit to the fishing village of Cadaqués, just a short walk from Dalí’s home in Portlligat. From the late 1950s Duchamp rented a house there each summer, and the two artists remained close until Duchamp’s death in 1968. At first glance, they seem like opposites, Dalí was the self-professed genius and notorious Surrealist showman whereas Duchamp was a quieter character. Despite their differences, they recognised each other as a fellow traveller, both profoundly committed to individual freedom. They shared a number of core artistic interests such as optics and language, they were pioneers in the use of found objects and admired and publically supported one another’s work. Fundamentally, the two men were united by a shared humour and scepticism which led them to challenge conventional views of art and life. 


Marcel Duchamp, L.H.O.O.Q, 1919. Pencil on postcard of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. 19.7 x 12.4 cm. Private Collection © Succession Marcel Duchamp/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2016.


Philippe Halsman, A Paragon of Beauty, Dalí's Moustache, 1953-54. Vintage photomontage print. 35.3 x 23.5 cm. Philippe Halsman Archive, New York © Philippe Halsman Archive.

Dalí / Duchamp has been organised in three main thematic sections focusing on specific points of contact between the artists and capturing the energy and spirit of their friendship and artistic exchange. 

Identities explores Duchamp and Dalí as personalities and artistic identities. While Duchamp was 17 years Dalí’s senior, as young artists both followed similar trajectories, initially experimenting with the artistic movements of their day: Impressionism, Fauvism, Cubism and Futurism. It was as a painter that Duchamp came to public attention, however he was to categorically reject the medium, making his last oil painting on canvas in 1918. This section shows the diversity of the canvases painted by both artists, and reveal photographs that examine a conscious play with their public personae and a shared desire to question the role of the artist. 

Highlights of this section include Duchamp’s The King and Queen Surrounded by Swift Nudes, 1912 (Philadelphia Museum of Art) one of his many works that draws upon the iconography of chess, and Dalí’s The First Days of Spring, 1929 (The Dalí Museum, St Petersburg, Florida). 


Marcel Duchamp, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass),1915–23 (reconstruction by Richard Hamilton 1965–6, lower panel remade 1985)Oil, lead, dust and varnish on glass in metal frame. 277.5 x 175.9 cm. Tate: Presented by William N. Copley through the American Federation of Arts 1975 Photo © Tate, London, 2016 / © Richard Hamilton and Succession Marcel Duchamp/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2016.


Salvador Dalí, Scatalogical Object Functioning Symbolically, 1931 (replica 1973). Assemblage with shoe, white marble, photographs, a glass containing wax, a gibbet, a matchbox, hair and a wooden scraper. 48.3 x 27.9 x 9.4 cm. Collection of the Salvador Dalí Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida. © Salvador Dali, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, DACS 2017.

The Body and the Object brings together works by both artists that focus on the theme of eroticism, treated in both figurative and abstracted paintings, drawings and sculptures. Many of these works explore the terrain between art and life activated by each artist’s use of found objects. This is particularly evident in Duchamp’s ‘readymades’ which, in this context, take on bodily connotations including Bicycle Wheel, 1913/1964 (National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa) and the iconic Fountain, 1917/1964 (National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art, Rome) as well as Dalí’s Lobster Telephone, 1938 (West Dean College, West Sussex). 

The final section, Experimenting with Reality shows how Dalí and Duchamp responded to new ideas about time and space, energy, matter and gravity, quantum theory and atomic physics. Duchamp’s dislike of the purely ‘retinal’ in painting was paradoxically paired with his interest in optical effects, which equally captivated Dalí. Both artists made works that explore a shared fascination with perspective and illusion. Highlights of this section include Dalí’s major work Christ of Saint John of the Cross, c. 1951 (Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow) and Apparition of Face and Fruit Dish on a Beach, 1938 (Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut) as well as Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass), 1915 (reconstruction by Richard Hamilton 1965-6/1985, Tate, London). 

The exhibition is on view at the Royal Academy of Arts through 3 January, 2018.


Salvador Dalí, Apparition of Face and Fruit Dish on a Beach, 1938. Oil on canvas. 114.3 x 143.8 cm. Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT. The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund. Photo © Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford / © Salvador Dali, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, DACS 2016.


Marcel Duchamp, Fountain, 1917 (replica 1964). Porcelain. Tate, London: Purchased with assistance from the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1999. Photo © Tate, London, 2016 / © Succession Marcel Duchamp/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2016.


Salvador Dalí, Les premiers jours du printemps (The First Days of Spring), 1929. Oil and collage on panel. 49.5 x 64 cm. © Collection of the Salvador Dalí Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida / © Salvador Dali, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, DACS 2016.


Marcel Duchamp, The King and Queen Surrounded by Swift Nudes, 1912. Oil on canvas. 114.6 x 128.9 cm. Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, 1950-134-63a © Succession Marcel Duchamp/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2017.