London’s Barbican Centre has spent the spring celebrating Marcel Duchamp, a pioneer of avant-garde art and one of the 20th century’s most influential thinkers. The season’s centrepiece is The Bride and the Bachelors – a landmark exhibition showcasing not just the French master but also the generation of younger American artists he inspired.
Incorporating sculptures, paintings and drawings alongside more experimental fare, the show has been greeted with rapturous acclaim – “It’s just the kind of serendipitous magic that these artists had been aiming for,” according to the Guardian.
Duchamp made his name as one of the biggest stars of the European Dada movement, causing a stir with provocative pieces like Bicycle Wheel and Fountain in the 1910s. Years ahead of his time, Duchamp’s theories were still cutting edge when he was discovered by John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns decades later.
These five figures share the spotlight at the Barbican. Fans of Rauschenberg and Johns can see paintings and prints never previously exhibited in the UK; meanwhile, the rarely-performed works of composer Cage and choreographer Cunningham are treated to some dazzling new interpretations.
Contemporary artist Philippe Parreno has devised an installation that evokes the fortuitous chaos of a Cage performance, featuring two Yamaha Disklavier computers performing live scores while the “ghosts” of Cunningham’s dancers are heard crossing the floor.
Furthermore, the exhibition’s final weekend incorporates two live performances – both free to ticket holders. On Saturday (June 8th), pianist Eliza McCarthy will play a handful of challenging Cage pieces including Music for Marcel Duchamp and Bacchanale. The day afterwards sees the London Contemporary Dance School and Richard Alston Dance Company make their last appearance at the Barbican, performing excerpts from Cunningham’s extensive repertoire.
The Barbican is located on Silk Street and is served by a dedicated tube stop, so it’s an easy trip for those staying in hotel accommodation in London.