Monday, November 02, 2009

Duchamp in Croydon

Between 1920 and 1959, Croydon Aerodrome was the launch pad for various airborne adventures, including Amy Johnson's 1930 flight from from Croydon to Australia (the first woman to make this flight). Most of the site has been redeveloped, but there are still traces of it.

Anarchist Ian Bone is evidently a fan and has a couple of good photos of a recent event there. In 1938 another sometime anarchist (?*) - the artist Marcel Duchamp - visited Croydon in the company of the wealthy art collector Peggy Guggenheim.

In 1938, Peggy Guggenheim opened Guggenheim Jeune, her first modern art museum, at No 30 Cork Street in London. She was assisted by Marcel Duchamp, probably the best known of the artists associated with Dada and Surrealism (though as a fervent individualist he shied away from actually joining these movements).

According to The priceless Peggy Guggenheim (Independent, 21 October 2009): 'The gallery, christened Guggenheim Jeune, opened on 24 January 1938, with 30 drawings by Jean Cocteau. Two large linen sheets, sent over from Paris, displayed a group of figures with their genitals and pubic hair on display: they were confiscated and detained, of all unlikely places, in Croydon airport until Peggy and Duchamp could hurry to south London to have them released'.

* Marcel Duchamp, to my knowledge, did not describe himself as an anarchist as such, but he was greatly influenced throughout his life by the work of Max Stirner, an individualist anarchist. He kept a copy of Stirner's The Ego and its Own next to his bed, and specifically referred to Stirner in relation to his work 3 Standard Stoppages. The idea for this work, which can be read as a critique of the conformity of measurement, apparently came to him on a trip to Herne Bay in Kent in 1913 (see: 'Aesthetic Anarchy' by Francis M Naumann in 'Duchamp, Man Ray, Picabia', Tate, 2008).

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