Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac presents a forthcoming exhibition featuring the most important Marcel Duchamp sculpture to come on the market for many years : “Porte-bouteilles” (Bottle Rack), from 1959, is widely considered one of the most iconic sculptures from the XXth century.
The exhibition created around this masterpiece will open in the Paris Marais gallery on October 20th, a date which also commemorates the 100th anniversary of the term readymade, that Duchamp used for the first time in 1916 in a letter to his sister Suzanne.
The exhibition features Marcel Duchamp’s Porte-bouteilles from 1959, the year in which Robert Rauschenberg bought it for his personal collection where it remained until it was transferred to the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation states : “The Board made the strategic decision to sell this work, which will allow us to create an endowment. Having a more diverse portfolio of cash investments and art will allow us to focus on our core legacy. In this coming year we will be launching the research towards our Catalogue Raisonné – a key project for the Foundation.” Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac has been chosen by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation to place the sculpture in a permanent museum home allowing for ongoing public viewing and scholarship of this historical piece.
Porte-bouteilles is recognised as one of the most significant works of the XXth century, as it was considered by Duchamp to be his first readymade. For Duchamp, the readymade meant the transition from what he called “retinal art” into an intellectual approach of his practice. As André Breton wrote in 1938 in his Dictionnaire abrégé du surréalisme, a readymade is an “ordinary object promoted to the dignity of an art object by the mere choice of the artist”.
After Duchamp left Europe and moved to New York in 1915, he became a major figure in the art scene of the city, influencing many collectors, curators and especially a new generation of artists. Robert Rauschenberg met Marcel Duchamp in 1953 at the Stable Gallery, the two of them, along with Jasper Johns, became close friends.
It was in 1959 that both artists took part in a group exhibition titled “Art and the Found Object” in the Time-Life Reception Center in New York, Duchamp decided to include his Porte-bouteilles in this exhibition. He asked Man Ray in Paris if he could borrow the 1935–36 version, which Man Ray had in his collection. After discovering that Man Ray had lost the object, Duchamp encouraged him to buy another one at the Grand Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville and to ship the object to New York. When Rauschenberg realized that this work was available for sale he acquired the piece for his own collection.
This masterpiece, the second existing one from Duchamp’s original Porte-bouteilles, had remained in Rauschenberg’s collection since he acquired it. Two years after buying this sculpture, he loaned it to the historical exhibition “The Art of Assemblage” at the MoMA in New York which travelled to the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Art and to the San Francisco Museum of Art. Since then, this work has been exhibited in important institutions such as the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, the Menil Collection in Houston, the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
- Marcel Duchamp Porte-bouteilles (Bottle Rack) (1959). Photo: Glenn Steigelman, courtesy of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation © Succession Marcel Duchamp/ ADAGP, Paris, 2016.