Marcel Duchamp cover for Beatrice Wood catalogue

In the spring of 1955, Duchamp received a letter from John Bauer, director of the American Gallery in Los Angeles, who was planning an exhibition of pottery by Beatrice Wood. Knowing of Wood’s friendship with Duchamp, he asked if the artist would consider providing a design for the cover of her next catalogue. Always willing to help friends, Duchamp signed an uncut proof print of his Poisson Japonaise, an image that had been used in the preparation of his most recent edition of rotoreliefs, and sent it to the gallery with a cover letter explaining that it represented “a fish turning in a bowl (on a long playing Victrola).” Duchamp went on to explain that “a sensation of depth [is achieved] when the whole design revolves at 33 turns per minute,” and provided specific instructions on how it should appear. “Please reproduce the design in black and white or in colour if you think it fit for the catalogue.” When the catalogue was published a few months later, the Poisson Japonaise was reproduced on the cover, in the same size as the sample sent by Duchamp, and inside the book the image was repeated again on the surface of a larger cardboard disk, complete with a hole in its center to facilitate placement on the pattern of a record player.

Catalogue for an exhibition at The American Gallery, Los Angeles, June 3–30, 1955. Cover reproduces Duchamp’s Poisson Japonais. Insert — offset color lithography on cardboard: 6 3/4 x 6 3/4 in. Framed with an original autographed letter from Marcel Duchamp to John Bauer, dated March 12, 1955.
Courtesy: L.A. Louver, Venice, CA.

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Tom on August 29, 2017