Philly Love Notes Gift Guide

Hello friends and Philly-lovers, Time for the first Philly Love Letters Gift Guide! With some help from you, I put together a completely non-comprehensive list of amazing things being done right here in the city (or right outside). This only scratches the surface of the cool stuff being made here. There are always tons of great markets and small businesses to support (like Amalgam Comics, Philadelphia Independents, Yowie, and Omoi Zakka). And of course, one of the best gifts of all -- donating money, time, Read more

Giving Back 2017

Oh this year. Time to buckle down and do what I can to give back. Like last year, I'll be donating all of the profits from the map sales to local nonprofits from Thanksgiving through Giving Tuesday. That means that your purchase of a map will help to support all of the following organizations: Philadelphia Wooden Boat Factory, Marian Anderson Historical Society, SEAMAAC, Red Paw Relief and Students Run Philly Style (more about the nonprofits below). Last year we raised Read more

#whyilovephillyarts Launches

It's official, the first #whyilovephillyarts, featuring Sean Martorana, is now live! Check out the prints below and purchase one of the 30 limited edition prints online. This is the first collaboration that aims to build a body of Philly-specific art across a variety of mediums for people to purchase with 100% of the profits going to the artist (along with a full commissions and licensing Read more

Alison Dell

Love Note #61: Alison loves the hidden badassery of Duchamp’s Étant donnés at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Alison Dell
Favorite Spot: Duchamp’s Étant donnés (Given: 1 The Waterfall, 2. The Illuminating Gas, French: Étant donnés: 1° la chute d’eau / 2° le gaz d’éclairage) in the Philadelphia Museum of Art
Neighborhood: Art Museum
Address: 2600 Ben Franklin Parkway

I am: Scientist, Artist, Sometimes writer about science and art, Distractable Weirdo, SlowSee-er
Years in Philly: Seven(!)
Current Home: Northern Liberties


My love note: Probably what I love about this piece is its hidden badassery. Duchamp, obviously was a complete badass, and he gave up the art world (somehow convincing everyone he had devoted his life to chess), to work on Étant donnés. He worked on it in semi-secret, maintaining the chess charade, for decades, (1946-66), and it wasn’t unveiled until after his death.

So it is a secret piece and he made it for itself, and never had to confront a critical reception to it, though he did make it to be on display at the PMA. And obviously, looking at it — you realize that it’s the work of someone completely obsessed. There is something weirdly tangible about that kind of stalkery intense love produced in making something while obsessed by it and this piece, which I just called ” fucking-crazy-secret-naked-dead-waterfall” when I first saw it — well Étant donnés totally has it. 

I stumbled on it in 2005. I knew about it, but somehow didn’t realize it was at the PMA till my mom (my mom! of all people!) took me into this secret back room in the Duchamp section (thanks to Anne d’Harnoncourt the museum has one of the best Duchamp collections in the world) and pointed me to this mysterious door with strange peepholes…and…well, just total weirdness. One person at a time has to peep through the door, and of course you are instantly trapped in this bonkers voyeuristic scene. Okay, so there’s the mysterious Laura Palmer-y nude (there is a rip near her belly btw, check it out, poor thing), but the whole tableau is so weirdly composed and unbent at the same time: the landscape, the perfect, glitttery waterfall, the upraised lantern. It’s so still, but it just seems like it’s going to degenerate into chaos at any minute. The whole scene is full of untold stories. I don’t know what to say. It’s strange and brilliant, and secret, and it was made for here. This thing is a fucking treasure! I love you, Étant donnés

p.s. the world should know that the PMA’s upcoming Dancing Around the Bride, celebrating Duchamp’s influence on John Cage, Merce Cunnungham, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauchenberg is going to be pretty great. It opens October 30th.
Posted on by Emma Fried-Cassorla in Art Museum 2 Comments