Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968)
The Dennis Hopper Collection
Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968)

Signed Sign

Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968)
Signed Sign
signed, inscribed and dated 'Marcel Duchamp Pasadena 1963' (on the index finger)
oil on panel
18 x 24 in. (45.7 x 61 cm.)
Executed in 1963.
James Corcoran Gallery, Los Angeles
P. Franklin, Étant donné Marcel Duchamp, no. 6, 2005. M. Buskirk and M. Nixon, eds., The Duchamp Effect, Massachusetts, 1999, p. 106.
A. Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, New York, 1997, p. 830, no. 587 (illustrated).
D. Tashjian, "Nothing Left to Chance: Duchamp's First Retrospective," B. Clearwater, ed., West Coast Duchamp, Miami, 1991, p. 63 (illustrated).
Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 3 Young Collections, January 1967-February 1968.
Albuquerque, University Art Museum, University of New Mexico, Selections from the Dennis Hopper Collection, October 1971.
Paris, Centre National de la Cinématographie and Melbourne, Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Dennis Hopper and the New Hollywood, October 2008-April 2010, p. 70 (illustrated).
Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Dennis Hopper Double Standard, July-September 2010, p. 15 (illustrated).

Lot Essay

This work has been authenticated by Mme Jacqueline Matisse Monnier and the Association Marcel Duchamp.

The opening of the first-ever Duchamp retrospective at the Pasadena Art Museum on October 2, 1963 can be described as a seismic event in the history of West Coast Contemporary Art. The aftershocks of this landmark exhibition, curated by Walter Hopps, can be felt in the work of succeeding generations; locally in the work of John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha, Vija Celmins, Robert Irwin and Richard Pettibone to name a few, and nationally in the work of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, Bruce Nauman, On Kawara and Lawrence Weiner. The third generation of artists influenced by these artists from the 1960s, for example, includes Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman, Sherrie Levine, Louise Lawler, Mike Kelley, Jeff Koons and Robert Gober. This roster simply makes a point and barely begins to list the legion of artists who stand on Duchamp's shoulders. The show was a signpost that pointed to a new direction; away from the tenets of Abstract Expressionism towards a new and expansive perimeter of the boundaries of what can be considered art.

After the opening, Dennis Hopper attended a reception and dinner that was held in Duchamp's honor in a ballroom of the Hotel Green, a large and luxurious Arts-and-Crafts era hotel located a few blocks from the museum. It was no coincidence that Duchamp chose the Hotel Green for his stay as well as the location for this event. Duchamp had known of the Hotel since at least 1946 and he may have attached some significance to the color Green. Green was the color of Duchamp's Green Box, 1934, the color of the invitation and poster for the show, and the color of the present sign for the Hotel Green. On the way into the party, Hopper spotted a sign attached to a fence that showed a pointing hand directing people to the entrance of the hotel. According to an account of the incident that was pieced together from various sources, Hopper cut the sign from the fence and arranged for it to be delivered to Duchamp for his signature (Robert Dean as quoted in A. Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, 3rd ed., New York, 1997, p. 830). There are a number of reasons why Duchamp might have found the request appealing. To begin with, it gave him the opportunity to sign a sign, the sort of visual/verbal pun that attracted him, as in the Poster Within a Poster that he designed for this very retrospective. But the sign also includes a pointing hand, similar to the one incorporated in his painting Tu m' of 1918, which is possibly the reason why he chose to place his signature within the extended index finger. Hopper later explained how his own work related to the sign. "By my very nature I am an abstract expressionist and an action painter," he said. "I am a finger-pointing á la Duchamp by choice" (Dennis Hopper and the New Hollywood, exh. cat., Paris, 2008, p. 22).

Whatever reasons Duchamp might have had for having signed this work, it is today included in his catalogue raisonné, but it is also occasionally identified as a collaborative work by Marcel Duchamp and Dennis Hopper (Ibid. and Dennis Hopper Double Standard, exh. cat., Los Angeles, 2010). Since the selective process for readymades was always something that Duchamp took seriously (in the beginning, he felt they should be chosen with "aesthetic indifference"), the fact that this item was selected by someone else--and in this case that person can be identified as an artist--the question of authorship is thrown into question, yet another reason why Duchamp (whose readymades automatically address issues of attribution) might have so willingly agreed to sign this sign.

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