Examining one of the most important chapters in the history of contemporary art, “Dancing Around the Bride” is the first exhibition to explore Marcel Duchamp’s American legacy by tracing his interactions and exchanges with four postwar masters: composer John Cage, choreographer Merce Cunningham and visual artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg.
The exhibition will feature over 100 works, including more than 60 by Johns and Rauschenberg and more than 40 by Duchamp, as well as prerecorded and live music by John Cage and live performances of choreographies by Merce Cunningham. Many of these works will be seen together for the first time and reflect the artists’ multiple levels of engagement across the disciplines of art, dance and music.
“This exhibition is about the relationship between art and life,” said Carlos Basualdo, exhibition curator and the Museum’s Keith L. and Katherine Sachs curator of Contemporary Art. “It tells the story of five extraordinary artists and what happened to art and culture when their lives and work intersected. Their mutual interactions redefined the language of contemporary art in the 1950s and ’60s.”
“Dancing around the Bride” will be organized into four thematic sections. The first section titled “The Bride” will look at the central figure in Duchamp’s painting “Bride (1912).” The second section explores the theme of chance in works that share this Duchampian attitude, and charts the development of chance procedures in the music of Cage, the choreography of Cunningham, and the paintings and prints of Rauschenberg. In a section titled “The Main Stage” visitors can explore the collaborations and stage sets created by Rauschenberg and Johns for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, with one of the exhibition’s centerpieces. As the game of chess was significant to Duchamp, the final section takes chess as both a literal motif and as a metaphor for exchanges among these artists.
The exhibition will highlight formative moments such as Johns and Rauschenberg’s 1958 visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to see Duchamp’s “The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass) (1915–23),” one of the Museum’s greatest masterpieces and the source for this exhibition’s title.
“As the Philadelphia Museum of Art holds the world’s largest and most significant collection of works by Marcel Duchamp, it is only fitting for the Museum to present this first exhibition juxtaposing works by Cage, Cunningham, Johns, and Rauschenberg with one another and exploring their complex and vitally important relationship to Duchamp,” said Timothy Rub, the Museum’s George D. Widener Director and Chief Executive Officer. “This multidimensional and interdisciplinary show will enable visitors to experience and more fully appreciate one of the most exciting and momentous periods in the history of modern art.”
The Museum’s renowned Duchamp gallery (d’Harnoncourt Gallery 182) and two neighboring galleries (180 and 181) will be reinstalled on the occasion of Dancing around the Bride. Following it’s PMA debut, the exhibition will travel to the Barbican Centre in London where it will be on view February 14 – June 9, 2013.
“We are delighted to be working alongside the Philadelphia Museum of Art to present this important exhibition that includes such a rich selection of influential works,” said Jane Allison, senior curator of the Barbican Art Gallery.
In conjunction with the Philadelphia-based performing arts organization Bowerbird, the Museum is presenting a festival celebrating the centennial of John Cage’s birth. The festival, titled “Cage: Beyond Silence,” will focus on Cage’s early music, his Song Books of the mid-1970s, and his Number Pieces composed late in his lifetime, and will take place at the Museum and other locations in Philadelphia. Visit www.philamuseum.org/bride for information on both the dance and music performances and cagebeyondsilence.com for full Cage festival information.