For Marcel Duchamp the question of art and life, as well as any other question capable of dividing us at the present moment, does not arise.
—André Breton, in Littérature, 1922
He approaches life as he does the chessboard: the gambits fascinate him without leading him to imagining that there is a meaning behind it all which might make it necessary for him to believe in something. . . . Duchamp’s attitude is that life is a melancholy joke, an indecipherable nonsense, not worth the trouble of investigating.
—Hans Richter, Dada: Art and Anti-Art, 1964
What accounts for the immense intellectual prestige which the mystique of Marcel Duchamp has enjoyed in this country—if only in certain circles, to be sure—for more decades than most of us can now remember? I speak at the outset of the artist’s...