Dalí / Duchamp at the Royal Academy


Dalí / Duchamp, on view at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, is the first exhibition to juxtapose the art of two masters of the 20th century : Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968) and Salvador Dalí (1904– 1989). Is it a strange coupling? Not so much because the artists were friends, so we wonder why this exhibition hasn’t been staged before.

Taking their friendship as its starting point, the exhibition establishes a brilliant dialogue between Duchamp and Dalí. Specific points of contact between the artists are identified. The exhibition captures the energy and spirit of their artistic exchange.

The show demonstrates their aesthetic, philosophical and personal relationship. 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 minds. Dalí / Duchamp is curated around three main thematic sections.

Highlights 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).

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.