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Details & Cataloguing

Surrealist Art Evening Sale

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Marcel Duchamp
1887 - 1968
HOMMAGE À CAÏSSA
signed Marcel Duchamp, titled, dated 1966, numbered 2/30 and dedicated Pour Maria amicalement Marcel
Readymade: vinyl and wood chessboard
48 by 48cm.
18 7/8 by 18 7/8 in.
Executed in New York in January 1966. Although planned as an edition of 30, fewer than 10 examples were executed.
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This work is recorded in the archives of the Association Marcel Duchamp.

Provenance

Private Collection (acquired from the artist)

Wade Stevenson II, Paris (sold: Hôtel Drouot, Christophe Joron-Derem, 12th June 2012, lot 48)

Galerie Ronny van de Velde, Belgium (purchased at the above sale)

Private Collection, Knokke (acquired from the above)

Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2013

Literature

Robert Lebel, Marcel Duchamp, 1967, no. 243

Arturo Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, 1969, no. 391, another example illustrated p. 557

Arturo Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, London, 1997, vol. II, no. 632, another example illustrated p. 864

Francis M. Naumann, Marcel Duchamp: The Art of Making Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, New York, 1999, no. 9.10, another example illustrated in colour p. 264

Catalogue Note

The image of a chessboard holds a special place in the work of Marcel Duchamp, whose attitude towards art and general way of thinking largely revolved around the concept of chess. What in his mind linked art and chess is that he saw them both as types of free mental activity, requiring intellectual precision and rigour. As he understood art as an intellectual rather than aesthetic discipline, he saw in the game of chess a perfect metaphor for artistic activity. Duchamp himself excelled at the game, he joined several chess clubs in Europe and America, often playing every night, as well as participating in tournaments and Chess Olympiads. In the 1920s he famously abandoned painting for chess, which became not only a game, but one of the seminal themes of his art.

 

In a speech given to the New York State Chess Association in August 1952, Duchamp declared: ‘Objectively, a game of chess looks very much like a pen-and-ink drawing, with the difference, however, that the chess player paints with black-and-white forms already prepared instead of inventing forms as does the artist […]. Beauty in chess is closer to beauty in poetry; the chess pieces are the block alphabet which shapes thoughts; and these thoughts, although making a visual design on the chessboard, express their beauty abstractly, like a poem. Actually, I believe that every chess player experiences a mixture of two aesthetic pleasures, first the abstract image akin to the poetic idea of writing, second the sensuous pleasure of the ideographic execution of that image on the chessboards. From my close contact with artists and chess players I have come to the personal conclusion that while all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists’ (quoted in A. Schwarz, op. cit., 1969, p. 68).

 

The title Hommage à Caïssa has its origin in a sixteenth-century poem by the Italian Renaissance writer Hieronymus Vida, which describes a game of chess between Apollo and Mercury, and in which a fictional Green tree spirit Caïssa is portrayed as the goddess of chess. Created in New York in January 1966, Hommage à Caïssa was executed as a limited edition Readymade, sold during the exhibition of the same title held the following month at Cordier & Ekstrom Gallery in New York, which Duchamp organised for the benefit of the American Chess Federation. According to the Catalogue Raisonné, although this work was projected as an edition of thirty, fewer than ten examples were actually issued.

Surrealist Art Evening Sale

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London