The Marcel Duchamp world tour

Peter Blake Marcel Duchamp’s World Tour: He Meets the Spice Girls and Elvis 2000–5

Peter Blake
Marcel Duchamp’s World Tour: He Meets the Spice Girls and Elvis 2000–5

Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates, London Courtesy Waddington Galleries, London
© Peter Blake 2007. All rights reserved, DACS

In 1917 Marcel Duchamp placed a urinal, signed ‘R Mutt’, on its back in an exhibition in New York. This simple gesture henceforth (although not without criticism), gave artists the freedom to determine what objects could be defined as ‘art’. The Marcel Duchamp World Tour, Blake’s most recent series of paintings, was conceived as a way of thanking Duchamp for this act. ‘I decided to send him on a posthumous world tour, rather like the Flying Dutchman, where he would travel the world forever in a big rock ’n’ roll tour bus, being very comfortable. He meets people along the way and people come and go on the bus and he goes to various happenings.’

The first painting in the series of five, The Marcel Duchamp World Tour: The Tarzan Family 1995–2005, shows a cigar-smoking Duchamp standing alongside Tarzan and his family (including Cheeta, whom Blake discovered is exactly the same age as him and also likes to paint). Duchamp travels in other works to meet Elvis and the Spice Girls, has a game of chess with Tracey Emin and goes to the Congress of Unusual People. The Artists’ Fancy Dress Ball is hosted by Damien Hirst dressed as Watteau’s ‘Pierrot’ and includes Picasso dressed as Touchstone from Shakespeare’s As You Like It taken from a John Zoffany painting. Edward Hopper also makes an appearance. Duchamp makes his impact wherever he stops, regardless of whether his new-found context be culturally high, low, or a fusion of the two.