Purple Magazine
— S/S 2012 issue 17

The Corner x Irving Penn x Marcel Duchamp

photography by OLIVIER ZAHM
text by JAN AMAN

The most influential artist of the 20th century, Marcel Duchamp, didn’t refer to himself as an artist. He preferred to use the term “an-artiste.” His attitude toward art was like that of an anarchist’s toward politics.

Duchamp wasn’t so much inter-ested in attention as he was in posterity. He loved hidden mes-sages that might be discovered later — which may be why he paid such meticulous attention to details, including those pertaining to all photographs taken of him.

So, in 1948, when Irving Penn took his portrait, Duchamp very likely collaborated on the staging of it. The image is a typical studio shot, with two temporary walls placed on a concrete floor. But one detail makes it different: the unusually acute corner angle of 22.5 degrees in which Duchamp is standing.

Irving Penn must have liked this corner because he photo-graphed other famous personalities standing in it, including Truman Capote, Georgia O’Keefe, Marlene Dietrich, and Igor Stravinsky. But Duchamp was probably the first of his subjects to pose there, and so it’s probable that he was involved in the composition of the shot.

In fact, hidden references to the 22.5-degree corner appear in all of Duchamp’s major artworks, from his little painting, The Coffee Grinder, which dates from 1911, to his last piece, Etant Donnés, which was unveiled only after his death in 1968. 22.5 degrees represent a corner angle of individuality, of standing alone. So Penn’s portrait is intriguing because it may provide an additional hint into Duchamp’s life and work.

Over the past five years, I’ve spent many enigmatic afternoons with Professor Ulf Linde in the mansion / museum he resides in, which is located just north of Stockholm. We’ve discussed Duchamp and the meaning of the 22.5-degree angle. Linde, who will soon turn 83, is a chain-smoker who takes his first dry martini at exactly 4:30 p.m. He sits in a wheelchair, but his mind is as clear as ever. Marcel Duchamp has been Linde’s obsession for the past 60 years.

In 1949, to try and fully under-stand Duchamp, Linde began making replicas of all the artist’s major pieces. When they finally met in 1961, Duchamp was more than simply amused or flattered by Linde’s meticulous work — he signed and authorized all of them, including the replica of The Large Glass. Among the major interpreters of Duchamp’s works, only Robert Lebel and Richard Hamilton had such an opportunity to exchange ideas directly with the “an-artiste.”

A crucial result of Linde’s 60 years of intense reading, writing, and making replicas was his realization of the importance of the numbers 7 and 8 and the 22.5-degree angle in Duchamp’s work. Their significance stems from a story that is as simple as it is beautiful. Marcel Duchamp came from a family of eight: six siblings and two parents. But from Duchamp’s perspective, there were seven other members of his family; he was the eighth. 22.5 degrees is one-eighth of a half-circle, or 180º. Therefore, his slice of the family pie would be 22.5 degrees.

The half-circle is a recurring symbol in Duchamp’s work, as is the horizon, which means that the half-circle is a key to his private sphere. He told Robert Lebel that his family was the inspiration for his art. He even made a glass in the shape of a half-circle. The form of the letter D — for Duchamp — is a half-circle, 180 degrees, which is eight times 22.5 degrees. One slice of the family of eight equals Duchamp himself.

In his 22.5-degree angle, Duchamp was alone — as we all are. That may be why he was never part of a group. He had to be the “an-artiste.” When he died, Duchamp left us one last work of art, which one views by looking through a peephole — to see the wide-angled open legs of a nude woman.


De ou par Marcel Duchamp par Ulf Linde, co-produced by The Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts and the Moderna Museet in Stockholm. Curated by Jan Åman with Daniel Birnbaum, Henrik Samuelsson, Susanna Slöör and Ann-Sofi Noring. At The Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm, Fall 2011.Book to be released by Sternberg Press in Spring 2012, edited by Jan Åman and Daniel Birnbaum.

Marine Braunschvig @ 2BMANAGEMENT, style – Nicolas Eldin @ ARTLIST, hair — Sergio Corvacho @ THE MAGNET AGENCY for MAC COSMETICS, make-up — Rebecca Lievre, photographer’s assistant — Anaïs Richez, stylist’s assistant.

This fashion story has been realized in collaboration with thecorner.com, where all the clothing featured here can be purchased online.



[Table of contents]

S/S 2012 issue 17

Table of contents

purple EDITO

purple NEWS

purple BEST of the SEASON





purple BEAUTY

purple TRAVEL

purple NAKED

purple NIGHT

purple SUMMER


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