DALÍ / DUCHAMP | Royal Academy, London

This is the UK’s first exhibition dedicated solely to Salvador Dalí and Marcel Duchamp, but it’s a phenomenal success with visitors and it’s not hard to see why. True, infamously arrogant Dalí was perhaps the first “celebrity-artist”, while the shy Duchamp worked mainly in secret. Nonetheless, the pair maintained a lasting bond of mutual admiration from 1930 to 1968, and this exhibition repeatedly displays their mutual influences, and their friendship.

Dalí alone is sure to pull in the crowds, especially with enormous, maddeningly detailed, world-famous works like Apparition of Face and Fruit Dish on a Beach (1938) and Living Still Life (1956). The Spectre of Sex Appeal (1932) is only about the size of an A6 sheet of paper, and the experience of examining this exquisite work up close and personal cannot be equalled. Dalí’s Lobster Telephone (1936) is also a must-see. Ample space is also given to relatively unknown works, with reference to Dalí’s early cubism and even minimalism, including a portrait of the artist’s father, side-by-side with that of Duchamp.

Duchamp’s iconic “readymade”, Fountain (1917) is on display, alongside many other similar found objects, and surreal objects by Dalí. Duchamp’s celebrated work The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (usually called simply The Large Glass, 1923) is showcased alongside Dalí’s Christ of Saint John of the Cross (1951), with a slightly tenuous and on-the-nose commentary. Stronger links can be seen in Dalí’s and Duchamp’s black-and-white surrealist films, and across the exhibition’s entire “The Body and the Object” section, exploring Dalí’s and Duchamp’s similarly warped sense of eroticism.

This is a rare opportunity to see two such influential artists of the 20th century. To see them side-by-side makes for fascinating personal insight, cutting through the obtuse flair and intellectualism. It’s not a vast collection (you’ll only need an hour), but it’s beautifully curated enough to provide a Mecca for all Dalí and Duchamp fans.

Tickets are £15, or free for RA friends.

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