Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968)
Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968)

Air de Paris

Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968)
Air de Paris
signed, titled, inscribed and dated ‘Marcel Duchamp 1964 Exempl. Arturo 50cc air de Paris’ (on the ampoule); inscribed and engraved ‘Marcel Duchamp 1964 Ex Arturo AIR DE PARIS, 1919 EDITION GALERIE SCHWARZ, MILAN’ (on a copper plate affixed to the box)
glass ampoule with artist’s wooden storage case
ampoule height: 4 7/8 in. (12.6 cm.)
case height: 6 in. (15.2 cm.)
Conceived in 1919 and executed in 1964. This work is one of two artist's proofs from an edition of eight replicas plus two artist's proofs and two replicas outside of the edition. This work has been authenticated by Mme Jacqueline Matisse Monnier and the Association Marcel Duchamp and is accompanied by a certificate from the Association.
Arturo Schwarz, Milan, acquired from the artist, 1964
Anon. sale; Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg, New York, 13 May 2002, lot 1
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
R. Lebel, Marcel Duchamp, New York, 1959, pp. 12, 83 and 170, no. 143.
W. Hopps, U. Linde and A. Schwarz, Marcel Duchamp: Ready-Mades, etc. (1913-1964), Milan, 1964, pp. 55 and 80, no. 18 (another example illustrated).
A. Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, New York, 1970, pp. 478-479, no. 264c (another version and another example illustrated).
A. Schwarz, Marcel Duchamp, New York, 1975, pl. 119 (another version illustrated).
T. Zaunschirm, Bereites Mädchen Ready-made, Klagenfurt, 1983, pp. 112 and 151, fig. 33 (another version illustrated).
U. Linde, Marcel Duchamp, Stockholm, 1986, p. 54 (another version illustrated).
P. Hulten, ed., Marcel Duchamp, Work and Life, Cambridge, 1993, p. 77 (another version illustrated).
J. Mink, Marcel Duchamp, Art as Anti-Art, Cologne, 1995, p. 67 (another version illustrated in color).
D. Joselit, Infinite Regress, Marcel Duchamp 1910-1941, Cambridge, 1998, p. 182, fig. 4.11 (another version illustrated).
D. Ades, N. Cox and D. Hopkins, Marcel Duchamp, London, 1999, pp. 158 and 220, no. 119 (another version illustrated).
F. Naumann, Marcel Duchamp, The Art of Making Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, New York, 1999, pp. 246-247 and 249, no. 8.71 (another example illustrated).
A. Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, New York, 2000, pp. 676-677, no. 375d (other versions and another example illustrated).
F. Naumann, The Recurrent, Haunting Ghost: Essays on the Art, Life and Legacy of Marcel Duchamp, New York, 2012, pp. 153, 273, 390, 477 and 519, fig. 27.8 (another version illustrated).
C. Tomkins and A. Kamien-Kazhdan, Marcel Duchamp, exh. cat., New York, Gagosian Gallery, 2014, pp. 88-89, fig. 6 (another example illustrated).
Stockholm, Galerie Burén, Duchamp Retrospective, April-May 1963 (another version exhibited).
Pasadena Art Museum, Marcel Duchamp: A Retrospective Exhibition, October-November 1963, no. 66 (another version exhibited).
Milan, Galleria Schwarz, Omaggio a Marcel Duchamp, June-September 1964, no. 18 (another example exhibited).
New York, Cordier & Ekstrom, Not Seen And/Or Less Seen of/by Marcel Duchamp/Rrose Sélavy, 1904-64, January-February 1965, no. 69 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
London, Tate Gallery, The Almost Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, June-July 1966, p. 60, no. 135 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Jerusalem, Israel Museum, Marcel Duchamp: Drawings, Etchings for the Large Glass Readymades, March-May 1972 (another example exhibited).
Milan, Galleria Schwarz, Marcel Duchamp: 66 Creative Years, December 1972-November 1973, p. 38, no. 88 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Marcel Duchamp, September-November 1973, p. 31, no. 162 (another version exhibited).
Paris, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre National d’art et de Culture George Pompidou, L’Oeuvre de Marcel Duchamp, January-May 1977, p. 97, no. 123 (another version exhibited and illustrated).
Barcelona, Fundació Joan Miró; Madrid, Sala de Exposiciones de la Caja de Pensiones and Cologne, Museum Ludwig, Duchamp, February-August 1984, p. 194, no. 87 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Antwerp, Galerie Ronny van de Velde, Marcel Duchamp, April-July 1993, no. 51 (another example exhibited).
Venice, Palazzo Grassi, Marcel Duchamp, April-July 1993, p. 77 (another version exhibited and illustrated).
Jerusalem, Israel Museum; Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario and San Francisco, Legion of Honor, Dreaming with Open Eyes: The Vera, Silvia and Arturo Schwarz Collection of Dada and Surrealist Art from the Israel Museum, December 2000-September 2002, p. 151, cat. 191 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
Jerusalem, Israel Museum, Surrealism and Beyond in the Israel Museum, February-August 2007, pp. 81 and 276 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, Airs de Paris, April-August 2007, pp. 31-34 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
Rome, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, Duchamp: Re-made in Italy, October 2013-February 2014, pp. 54, 210 and 211 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).

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Saara Pritchard
Saara Pritchard

Lot Essay

"I thought of it as a present for Arensberg, who had everything money could buy. So I brought him an ampoule of Paris air." Marcel Duchamp

Delicate yet mysterious, Marcel Duchamp’s Air de Paris represents one of his most personal and poetic readymades. Late in 1919, before leaving Paris, Duchamp purchased a souvenir for his dear friend and patron, Walter C. Arensberg. He asked a local pharmacist to empty the “Serum Physiologique” from a glass ampoule, allowing it to refill with Paris air before resealing it. Reminiscing on his experience Duchamp stated, “I thought of it as a present for Arensberg, who had everything money could buy. So I brought him an ampoule of Paris air” (H. Richter, Dada: Art and Anti-Art, New York, 1965, p. 99). The store-bought glass vessel encasing air appeared to contain nothing at all forcing the viewer to question what exactly, if anything, the ampoule holds.

As pioneer of the Dada movement, Duchamp rejected the concept of a work of art seeking alternatives to the institution. The ultimate defiance on artistic tradition was the Readymade: “any common, fabricated object that, without undergoing any modification but solely by reason of its having been chosen by the author, is consecrated a work of art” (A. Schwartz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, New York, 2000, p. 44). Art evolved into a choice, a decision, rather than the desire for an aesthetically pleasing visual; the Readymade dissolved taste and embraced visual indifference. Duchamp’s choice of the tiny French glass ornament allowed the object to become a work of art capturing a moment in time, a cerebral art. In true Dada fashion, Arensberg, in 1949, accidentally broke the ampoule containing the air of Paris. Though able to be repaired, this begs the question—is this the Air de Paris any longer?

50cc d’air de Paris, inscribed on the present work, falsifies the volume that the ampoule encases. Alluding to Duchamp’s suspicion of the definite, the ampoule itself in fact holds 125 cubic centimeters, more than double Duchamp’s determination. This mistrust for a unit of measure was materialized in 3 Standard Stoppages from 1913-14. Dropping three one-meter-long threads, from the height of one meter onto stretched canvases, Duchamp left the outcome entirely to chance. To preserve the curves, the threads were adhered to the canvases and cut along the profile. Each thread remained a meter long, yet all formed differently mocking the notions of measurement—“a joke about the meter.” Air de Paris mocks the standards of measurement by blatantly misleading the viewer with not only physical size, but its contents. Can you truly measure nothing?

Duchamp inspired many artists through the Readymade and redefinition of the artistic ritual. One such artist who truly took to heart Duchamp’s mockery and rejection of “retinal” art was Piero Manzoni. In 1961, the artist produced ninety cans of Artist’s Shit, each number and signed. In a letter to his friend Ben Vautier, Manzoni wrote “…if collectors want something intimate, really personal to the artist, there’s the artist’s own shit, that is really his” (F. Battino and L. Palazzoli, Piero Manzoni: Catalogue Raisonné, Milan, 1991, p. 144). Manzoni disregarded taste and fulfilled the “desire” of collectors. Duchamp’s creation of the Readymade not only shaped the artists around him, but changed the course of artistic practice. Postwar and contemporary artists, such as Robert Rauschenberg, Jeff Koons and Martin Creed, still reference his defiance and boldness choosing the found object as their medium.

To further the desecration of artistic tradition, the Readymade can inherently be found and chosen indiscriminately. Though to allow the original notion to prosper, on the 50th anniversary of its conception, Duchamp collaborated with his close friend and gallery owner Arturo Schwarz to reproduce a series of Readymades, which had since been destroyed or lost—including The Fountain and Hat Rack. The present work of 1964 was created on this occasion to celebrate Duchamp’s ultimate rebellion, ensuring its affluence. Of the twelve reproductions allowed by Duchamp, one was reserved for the artist and another for Schwarz (the present work). While the original remains in the famed Marcel Duchamp collection of Walter C. Arensberg gifted to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, another from the edition of the eight lives in Paris at the Centre Pomipdou.

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