One was the flamboyant Master of the Outrageous, a surrealist prankster who, in his own words, wanted to discredit the world of everyday reality. The other is commonly known as a more cerebral, reserved character who built his art upon academic foundations. An exhibition pairing the work of Salvador Dalí and Marcel Duchamp might not seem a natural fit, but the two artists in fact had a lot in common. Both aristocrats—and both incredibly good-looking—the friends were fixated by optics, language, science, and sexuality. It is their mutual obsession with eroticism that underpins the Royal Academy’s latest show. Typically, Dalí’s approach to sex defied subtlety: one of his paintings from the 1920s is entitled The Great Masturbator. Duchamp, too, said eroticism underpinned his work, and his final installation, Etant Donnés, allowed visitors to peer through a peephole at a pornographic sculpture. Not only does this blockbuster exhibit pieces by two modernist visionaries, it also uses their unlikely alliance to encourage audiences to understand their output in novel ways: Duchamp’s genius should decode Dalí’s wild deconstruction of beauty, whilst the mischievous Dalí will help free Duchamp from prevailing, scholarly interpretations of his work.
Credit: The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass), 1915. © Tate, London, 2017/© Succession Marcel Duchamp/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2017