Marcel Duchamp: Étant donnés
Michael R. Taylor
INSTALLATION (Part 3)*
* Taylor, Michael R.; Marcel Duchamp: Étant donnés, Philadelphia Museum of Art & Yale University Press, 2009, pp. 150-160, pp. 185-186. (Published on the occasion of an exhibition held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Aug. 15 - Nov. 1, 2009.)
THE MORATORIUM ON PHOTOGRAPHY
The issue of photographing the interior of Étant donnés had been discussed at an earlier meeting attended by Evan Turner, Teeny Duchamp, Bill Copley, and Anne d’Harnoncourt on January 24, 1969. Teeny and Copley spoke about Duchamp’s own frustrated efforts to photograph Étant donnés as it neared completion, the results of which never satisfied him since he found it impossible to re-create in a two-dimensional image the spatial complexity and ambience of the diorama as it appeared through the binocular eyeholes. According to d’Harnoncourt, “Copley remained strongly opposed to any photograph being taken of the interior, based on his earlier discussions with Duchamp in front of the piece in the Fourteenth Street studio.” His staunch opposition to photography would eventually place Copley at loggerheads with the Museum, although d’Harnoncourt believed that “his intention was to always honor Duchamp’s wishes.” In retrospect, the validity of Copley’s objections are confirmed by the recollections of Denise Browne Hare, who photographed the work while spending time alone in Duchamp’s studio in December 1968. She recounted her own personal difficulties in capturing with a camera the mystery and aura of the Étant donnés interior: “When I printed the negatives, I realized that the photographs were useless. The figure was distorted, the space flattened, the illusion shrunken.”
---- D’Harnoncourt’s notes from the January 24 meeting reveal there was a consensus that “no photographs [were] to be taken by anybody outside Museum / Museum to take photo of the door when in situ for publication: Art in America etc. / Museum to take photos of the piece for conservation and historical records only / Museum to retain option to photograph for publication purposes or release same after 15-20 years—in such case as physical change in condition of the piece etc.” Four days after the meeting, Turner wrote to Copley to express his satisfaction that a “complete agreement” had been reached on this issue.
---- On January 28, 1969, Turner wrote to Teeny Duchamp and Bill Copley to confirm that “the only view [of Étant donnés] that may now be released is the view of the closed door and its surrounding and all the great nails must be in place.... At the end of fifteen years the Museum may release further photographs if it so decides.” A color photograph of the wooden door had been requested by Copley to accompany an article that he was writing on the work for Art in America, entitled “The New Piece.” At Copley’s suggestion, the magazine had agreed to include a special section on Duchamp in its summer issue to coincide with the public unveiling of Étant donnés. To be edited by the American abstract artist Cleve Gray, who had known Duchamp for more than twenty years and who had been taken by Copley to see the work in the Eleventh Street studio in January 1969, this special section was conceived to celebrate the life and career of the late artist and his previously unknown final masterpiece. Scheduled to appear in July 1969, the contents of this issue would include personal tributes by some of Duchamp’s closest friends, including John Cage, Richard Hamilton, Jasper Johns, and Man Ray, as well as the essays by Copley and Gray disclosing the existence of Étant donnés. The timing of the publication presented Turner and his staff with the daunting logistical challenge of producing a color photograph of the old wooden door before the magazine’s deadline, since the work at that point was still in New York, and construction had not yet begun on the cinderblock wall that would house the door and its brick archway at the Museum.
---- Copley requested a color transparency of the exterior door in a letter to Turner, dated January 30, 1969, in which he suggested that the photograph “could be done in the room where the piece actually is at some time during the actual dismantling.... This photo, by the way, should be in color but probably the Museum photographer should be the one to do it. I imagine Mr. Gray’s publication would be willing to bear the cost of the color involved.” Turner initially was apprehensive about Copley’s request: “Since I do not know quite yet what will happen in terms of the first presentation of the piece I would be very sorry to have our hands tied should a photograph of the door be needed. Do you think you can get around it? I do not think there should be a problem ... but to have the matter bound firmly before the realities are known is difficult. Perhaps we can discuss this when next I see you rather than get involved in a firm commitment with Mr. Gray at this point.”
---- On February 7, 1969, Cleve Gray informed Turner that he was “in somewhat of a bind for the color transparency of the door, as the absolute deadline for it is February 24. Since we are giving it a full color page, I would like to have the advantage of the effect the reddish bricks make against the grey door, and so I earnestly hope that you will find it possible to work this out for us.” The request was rather optimistic, given that the work was still in New York and the red bricks of the exterior arched doorway were in Cadaqués, but Turner recognized Gray’s “crying need for the photograph” and promised to “get something worked out by the first week of March.” The magazine’s editors appear to have accepted this revised deadline, since Copley wrote an enthusiastic, handwritten note to Turner, received by the Museum’s Director on March 5, 1969, in which he related that he had talked to Gray and there would “be no problem about the photo.”
---- The color transparency of the exterior door that illustrated Copley’s article in Art in America was taken at the Philadelphia Museum of Art by A. J. Wyatt, the staff photographer, in March 1969 (see fig. 3.19)—in other words, well before Étant donnés was fully assembled in Gallery 1759. When the image was sent to Art in America, it was marked with tape “to show only that portion of the door which will be visible when it is permanently installed behind a brick archway.” This color reproduction contains numerous clues as to the door’s appearance in the spring of 1969. Each of the four individual panels that make up the wooden door bears a number, written in what looks like pink chalk, markings that must have helped the Museum staff reassemble the door in Philadelphia. These numbers are no longer visible and probably were erased before the work was unveiled to the public. The two iron nails that conceal the holes through which the viewer peeps are also clearly visible in the Art in America reproduction, which was cropped to suggest the appearance of the finished installation, even though the surrounding brick archway and wall had not been built when Wyatt took the photograph.
---- Clearly, no still image could capture the work’s pulsating, supra-naturalistic atmosphere, although the large number of stereoscopic images that Duchamp had made in the 1960s, and stored in a Cuvée Dom Perignon champagne box (another subtle allusion to the artist’s monastic existence), probably came closest to replicating the desired three-dimensional effect that the artist sought (figs. 3.20, 3.21, and 3.22). These pairs of identical color photographs reflect the artist’s lifelong interest in stereoscopy, anaglyphs, and other optical illusions, while undoubtedly also referencing the vogue for stereoscopic images of splayed female nudes and other forms of erotica in nineteenth-century France. Duchamp may have been familiar with the work of Auguste Belloc, whose erotic photographs of female genitalia have long been thought to have had a decisive impact on the cropped format of Courbet’s Origin of the World (see FIG. 3a.13). Barnet Hodes was greatly impressed with the color, detail, and atmosphere of Duchamp’s stereoscopic images and argued that “all photographs (aside from the existing one of the doors) must be stereographic and be approved by Mrs. Marcel Duchamp and the Cassandra Foundation before any public or private release,” but the three-dimensional illusionism of Duchamp’s stereoscopic renderings of the work failed to persuade Turner to yield his position against photography of the interior of the diorama.
---- Turner rejected Hodes’s suggestion on the grounds that “photographs of the composition hardly suggest the impressive impact of the piece and that they even run the risk of introducing factors that are not appropriate to the quality of the piece. Marcel Duchamp’s efforts to photograph the piece were certainly unsuccessful, and I suspect other efforts will be equally unsuccessful.... In any case, the previous arrangement whereby the Museum made the decision in fifteen years was felt to be satisfactory by everyone; thus it seems to me unrealistic to complicate the issue at this point.” Although Teeny Duchamp supported Turner’s decision to reject stereoscopic photography of the work as inadequate, given the current printing capabilities of the newspaper and publishing industries, Hodes’s proposal called attention to the historical importance of Duchamp’s stereoscopic images, which the lawyer identified as those most closely approximating the artist’s own vision and which have remained unpublished until now.
---- The Museum, in accordance with the wishes of the artist’s widow and the Cassandra Foundation, decided not to release any photographs of the interior of the tableau-construction or from the Manual of Instructions for a period of at least fifteen years. As a result, the legally binding memorandum of agreement between the Cassandra Foundation and the Philadelphia Museum of Art stated that “for a period of 15 years from this date, Museum will not permit any copy or reproduction of ‘Étant donnés’ to be made, by photography or otherwise, excepting only pictures of the door behind which said object of art is being installed” (see Memorandum of Agreement).
THE MUHLSTOCK AFFAIR
In letters to Teeny Duchamp and Bill Copley, both dated January 28, 1969, Turner reiterated their earlier agreement regarding publicity: “There is to be no publicity when the piece first goes on exhibition. You have both agreed that publicity would only be rudely antagonistic to the spirit of the composition as conceived by Marcel Duchamp.” In a subsequent letter to Barnet Hodes, Turner confirmed this joint decision: “It is presently our plan, as agreed with Mr. Copley and Mme. Duchamp, that there should be no publicity surrounding the event.” Hodes wholeheartedly agreed with this strategy, replying that “you have my full cooperation in every respect.” The remarkable decision to unveil the work at the Museum without a press release and with no formal publicity—which, as Hodes pointed out, implied the work “had been there all the time”—grew out of Turner’s painful experience during his tenure as director of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in the early 1960s, when he defended the contributions of Louis Muhlstock, a Polish-born Quebec artist who had entered several sexually explicit drawings to a group exhibition that Turner juried on an annual basis.
---- Turner had selected Muhlstock for the exhibition based on a studio visit, when he was shown images of workers and industrial scenes from the Depression. He therefore suspected that the artist’s motive in entering a series of drawings of female nudes in provocative poses, in some cases even spread-eagled like Duchamp’s mannequin, was to be deliberately controversial. However, Turner initially chose to staunchly defend the artist, who was a respected and well-known figure in the Montreal arts community, in the face of a barrage of criticism from local newspapers that had called for the offending works in the exhibition to be removed. The resulting scandal, during which Turner and his wife received threatening telephone calls in the middle of the night from irate museum visitors, taught him that publicly defending an artist’s right to show whatever he or she wants in a public museum would only add fuel to the flames and provide opponents with statements that could be taken out of context and used against him. In the end, the scandalous episode in Montreal threatened to undermine Turner’s ongoing efforts to build the museum’s audience, and he was forced to remove three of Muhlstock’s drawings from the exhibition to appease critics, an act of censorship that he deeply regretted and was determined not to repeat in Philadelphia.
---- The Muhlstock affair led Turner to adopt a cautious approach to Étant donnés in terms of the decision not to issue a press release as well as his proposal to prohibit photography of the work’s interior and the Manual of Instructions for a period of at least fifteen years. Unfortunately, Teeny Duchamp recently had commissioned photographs of the manual, which she intended to be held at the Museum until she was ready to donate the original. Fearing that these photographs would become available to the press, Turner suggested to Teeny, in a letter dated February 20, 1969, that she impound the negatives, noting that the Museum would be “very disturbed if they got out given our ruling about the only photograph to be released for fifteen years being that of the door itself.” Teeny replied five days later that she would “certainly go and see the photographer, and I hope that I will be able to get the negatives.” Nevertheless, she expressed her surprise about “the fifteen year business” and asked to talk about the fixed time period for restricting photography when she next met with Turner.
---- Concerned that Teeny would reverse the fifteen-year moratorium, Turner chose not to wait for a formal meeting but instead sent an urgent letter in which he declared that he was "distressed [that Teeny] felt the ‘fifteen year business’ was a new factor. Anne [d’Harnoncourt] and I remember it as a matter we had agreed upon at lunch [on January 24, 1969].” In an attempt to summarize the decisions made at that time, Turner previously had explained to both Teeny and Bill Copley, in a letter addressed to both parties, that “at the end of fifteen years the Museum [would] release further photographs if it so decides. It should, nonetheless, be recognized always that the very vivid experience of seeing the piece initially can never be conveyed in photographs; in fact, as Marcel Duchamp’s own photographs have shown, any reproduction tends to create a travesty of the artist’s intent.”
---- A suite of five Polaroid photographs that the artist made in 1964 and included in the first Manual of Instructions confirms that he experimented with different light and weather conditions and viewing positions in an attempt to overcome and resolve the problems encountered when photographing the interior (see FIG. 3C.1A-1E). Taken on February 12,1964, these Polaroids record the date, time, and weather, thus revealing Duchamp’s desire to understand the changing appearance of Étant donnés under different light levels, as well as his interest in using color photography to capture the supranaturalistic quality that pervades the work. Since the end results failed to satisfy the artist, Turner—with Copley’s full support—believed that publication of any photograph of the interior of Étant donnés should be prohibited for a significant time period. Following a telephone conversation with Teeny Duchamp on March 22, 1969, d’Harnoncourt informed Turner that the artist’s widow not only recognized the wisdom of the fifteen-year rule, but also had in her possession the negatives of the photographs of the Manual of Instructions and was eager to turn them over to the Museum.
FIG. 3C.1A - FIG. 3C.1E
EXCEPTIONS TO THE RULE
An exception to the fifteen-year moratorium on photography would be granted to the Milan-based art dealer Arturo Schwarz, who had been on the verge of publishing The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, a “comprehensive” catalogue raisonné of the artist’s work, when he learned of the existence of Étant donnés. According to Schwarz, the book had been scheduled to be printed in English, French, and Italian editions in April 1969 for distribution that fall. Despite his longstanding personal friendship with the artist, Schwarz had no inkling that Duchamp had been working in secret on a tableau-diorama, even though the two men had collaborated closely on the catalogue raisonne for nearly ten years. As Schwarz explained to Turner, it came as a great shock in January 1969 when Teeny Duchamp informed him that “a most important work by Duchamp, whose existence was kept secret for years,” had been donated to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
---- The artist’s widow contacted Schwarz again on January 26, 1969, to notify him that Étant donnés had been accepted by the Museum and was about to be dismantled in the Eleventh Street studio, prior to its transportation to Philadelphia, and that it would not be possible for him to see the work until it opened to the public. Since the tableau-construction would not be visible for several months, Teeny Duchamp suggested that Schwarz include a short errata slip with The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, listing the title of the new work and explaining that Duchamp’s silence on the existence of “this unexpected piece was an example of Marcel’s esoterism.” She implored Schwarz to “write as little as possible about [Étant donnés] now, as things get so easily misinterpreted by word of mouth (even ours!).” Her letter ended with a poetic description of the work’s viewing apparatus, and by extension the tableaudiorama itself, which she claimed was “like the eye of a needle that man must pass through to have a higher or freer experience. Its eroticism is lyrical and poetic and beautiful, almost the opposite of the ordinary peeping Tom level of seeing. There is a vision beyond the logical, and it hits you between the eyes.”
---- Determined to include an entry on the work, especially after learning from Teeny Duchamp that Cleve Gray would be writing on the piece for Art in America, Schwarz immediately asked his printer to set aside one and- a-half pages of the book for a description of Étant donnés, and then contacted Evan Turner to find out when the work would be installed in Philadelphia, so that he could make travel arrangements to see it. He also requested “photostats of Duchamp’s mounting instructions and copies of all existing photos made by Duchamp as well as details as to the size of the environment itself and of the main elements.” Schwarz promised to refund all expenses incurred in carrying out this request, and gave Turner his word that he would not publish anything about Étant donnés before the appearance of his catalogue raisonné in the fall of 1969, by which time the work would be on display at the museum.
---- Turner was able to comply only with the first part of Schwarz’s request—to view Étant donnés—since the terms of the Museum’s agreement with the Cassandra Foundation prohibited the release of any photographs of the work’s interior, including those found in the Manual of Instructions. This news was broken to Schwarz by Teeny Duchamp in a letter dated March 20, 1969, in which she explained, “The book of directions can be studied in the Museum once the piece is installed, through written permission from the Museum which of course will be granted to you. It is agreed at this point that no part of the book should be reproduced— text or pictures—as we have decided they were not done in that spirit. They were done only to direct the montage and demontage.”
---- On March 24, 1969, Turner likewise informed Schwarz about the restrictions surrounding photography of the Manual of Instructions and the interior of Étant donnés, which specified that “the only photograph of the piece that is to be released is one of the door in its brick surround, the two nails being in place.” The Museum’s Director also outlined the difficulties involved in assembling the work and predicted that Duchamp’s life-size environmental construction would not be ready for viewing until the end of May; in fact, the work’s inauguration finally took place on July 7,1969, due to a delay in construction of the brick archway that surrounds the exterior door as well as the complex electrical arrangements for humidification and air-conditioning. True to his word, Schwarz was among the first visitors to the Philadelphia Museum of Art when the work went on view to the public. On entering the museum, Schwarz rushed to Gallery 1759 to examine Étant donnés, which, according to Turner, “deeply impressed [him] ... even more than he expected, apparently.” He wrote an extended catalogue entry for the piece in an upstairs office that Turner had provided for him, thus ensuring that The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp could be published.
---- During his visit, Schwarz told Turner that his feelings had been hurt by the fact that several other people—including the artist Cleve Gray, who had not been as close to Duchamp as Schwarz was, and was far less knowledgeable about his work—had been given access to the work in the Eleventh Street studio, whereas Schwarz himself had been kept in the dark until shortly before Étant donnés was transferred to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, leaving him no time to see the work prior to its installation at the Museum. Teeny Duchamp also believed that Schwarz’s “great unhappiness stemmed from the fact that other people much less involved had seen Étant Donnés.... I notified him [about the existence of the work] too late for him to change his plans and he felt this was very cruel and unfair.” Around the time of his visit to Philadelphia, Schwarz began telling friends and colleagues about a dream in which he had seen the tableau-construction and was thus aware of its appearance and dimensions before it went on public display. This “premonition” allowed Schwarz to deflect the awkward and potentially embarrassing question of why Duchamp did not reveal the existence of his sculpture-construction to the author of the “definitive” catalogue raisonné of his work.
---- In the first edition of The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, which was published at the end of 1969, Schwarz discussed Étant donnés at length in a catalogue entry that was illustrated with two photographs of the old wooden door taken after the work was installed at the Museum. The first consisted of a blurred, close-up detail of the peepholes (fig. 3.23), while the second showed the full view of the exterior door and its brick archway. In the following year, the author planned a second edition of the book and insisted on reproducing a photograph of the interior. In a letter to Evan Turner dated July 13, 1970, Schwarz declared, “My publisher and I feel that the second edition of the book cannot be published without illustrating Étant donnés ... since, as you are aware, a photo has already been published in many art magazines. We could of course print a reproduction of Étant donnés ... taking it from one of the photos already published but we feel that this would not render justice to Marcel’s work and would not be loyal to you. We shall therefore take the chance of waiting, hoping however that you will kindly accelerate matters in order that this photo be sent to us at the very earliest possible opportunity.”
---- Schwarz’s reference to other published photographs alludes to the Irish-born Canadian artist Les Levine’s stereoscopic photographs of the Étant donnés interior, which had been published in the Chicago-based magazine Art Gallery and other publications under the title The Appearance of Marcel Duchamp in the Sixties (Homage to Duchamp) (fig. 3.24a,b). When Levine asked Teeny Duchamp for her consent to publish this work, she initially refused, believing that granting permission would undermine the Museum’s strict regulations forbidding photography of Étant donnés. Citing Duchamp’s L.H.O.O.Q. (1919) as an earlier example of the recontextualization of one work of art to make another, Levine argued that he had produced an original work that provided an entirely new experience for the viewer, since it lacked the physical presence of Étant donnés and instead served as an example of his own aesthetic concept, that of experiencing the world through film and photography.
---- Teeny was persuaded by Levine’s argument that his work represented a conceptual response to the questions of vision embodied in Duchamp’s diorama, and she allowed him to publish The Appearance of Marcel Duchamp in the Sixties (Homage to Duchamp) as a “mini-multiple” in the February 1970 issue of Art Gallery. The artist’s widow recognized that her support for Levine’s project placed her at odds with the Museum’s policy prohibiting photography of the interior, so in early February 1970 she visited Philadelphia to reopen the subject of releasing photographs of the work. In a meeting with Evan Turner, the artist’s widow stressed her beliefs that the idea behind the peephole “was to catch the public off-guard” and that the restrictions on photography had been put in place to ensure that the spectator would view the scene “objectively” and “free of preconceptions.” However, as she noted, various critical writings on the work had described in detail the scene beyond the peepholes, so that few visitors encountered the work without prior knowledge of its contents. She also made the argument, which had been brought home to her by Levine’s passionate claims for artistic freedom, that “Duchamp hated prohibitions of any sort.” She was, therefore, in Turner’s words, “concerned that the prohibition of the photograph was antagonistic to [Duchamp’s] standards even as it nurtured the more negative aspects of the peephole associations.”
---- Teeny agreed with Turner that any photograph of the interior would necessarily render a disservice to the tableau-construction, since the extraordinary light and ambience of the scene never could be restated accurately in another medium; but they reached an agreement whereby the Museum was authorized to photograph the work methodically if Anne d’Harnoncourt, the Conservator Theodor Siegl, and others involved in its installation were present. Teeny suggested that Levine himself could carry out this work, with the understanding that the Museum would receive all negatives and the artist would be credited whenever prints were released. Turner countered that Levine’s photography lacked the clarity necessary for images that could be formally released by the Museum and suggested instead that the photographs be taken by A. J. Wyatt, the staff photographer.
---- Levine’s work provided a precedent for publishing the interior scene, and under pressure from Teeny Duchamp and Arturo Schwarz, Turner tentatively agreed to permit photography of the view of Étant donnés through the peepholes to take place in the fall of 1970, after the tableau-construction had adjusted to the new humidification and air-conditioning systems installed during the summer months. As Turner previously had explained to Schwarz, however, the granting of permission for new photography of the piece to take place did not guarantee that he would release the resulting images: “Our decision as to what will be done with those photographs will depend to a considerable degree upon our own feelings about how satisfactory they are.” Turner’s statement proved to be prophetic, as the initial images of the interior taken by Wyatt in October 1970 were “thoroughly unsuccessful, by the common agreement of all.”
---- Turner had asked Wyatt to document the work’s condition in a series of analytical color and black-and-white photographs, as well as to produce a view of the interior that would be suitable for reproduction in the second volume of Arturo Schwarz’s The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp. Wyatt’s previously unpublished photographs offer the most complete record to date of the work as it is installed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, including numerous close-up shots of the mannequin’s papery skin and the hand clasping the Bec Auer lamp (fig. 3.25a,b). Although many of these images surpass their documentary purpose and capture the ineffable beauty of the piece, there was a general consensus among Museum staff that the photographs ultimately failed to convey the supranaturalistic atmosphere of the work’s interior (fig. 3.26).
---- On December 8, 1970, the Museum’s Director promised Schwarz that a new round of photography would begin shortly: “Probably a couple of photographers will be chosen to have a go at it and the approach will be somewhat different from the literal one we have adopted to date. Until we see the results, the decision on the release necessarily must remain up in the air. The intent continues to be to seriously consider releasing something—but at all costs, whatever we send out officially must not be antagonistic to the spirit of the piece.” By the end of January 1971, however, no photograph of the Étant donnés interior had materialized, and a frustrated and “extremely distressed” Schwarz had reached the end of his tether: “The situation is really dramatic, since the whole second edition of the book is printed except for the 8 pages which shall include the photo [for which] I am waiting.... Please understand the plight I am in and do cooperate, don’t compel me to use for the book one of the numerous photos that have appeared in numerous magazines in Europe and in your country. These photos do not render adequate justice to this work, but if you will leave me no choice, I shall be compelled to use one of them. Dear Evan, please, please, please send me the photo.”
---- Recognizing Schwarz’s plight, a sympathetic and deeply apologetic Turner conceded that Schwarz should “use one of the poor photographs” already in circulation, since the museum “obviously cannot send out a travesty. An inadequate achievement by others is better than a total travesty by us.” The second edition of The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp thus broke the official ban on photography of the Étant donnés interior by reproducing an uncredited black-and-white image, labeled “Through a peephole,” which clearly was taken at the Museum, although not by the staff photographer. Meanwhile, Turner and his staff continued their search for a photograph that would have the “proper balance between a crudely specific and, therefore, inadequate anatomical study as opposed to one that will have sufficient depth and lyricism to truly convey the nature of the piece.”
---- Yet another exception to the Museum’s prohibition on reproducing the interior of Étant donnés came in 1976, under pressure from the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, in Paris, which was organizing a Duchamp retrospective exhibition scheduled to open the following year. During a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which took place on May 12, Turner reported that the Duchamp retrospective in Paris was to include a stereoscopic presentation of the Étant donnés interior that also would be reproduced in the exhibition catalogue. As Turner related in a letter to Anne d’Harnoncourt, because “a number of pirated photographs” had been published since Étant donnés entered the permanent collection, he had suggested to the board that it end the ban on photography. He also noted that the work’s donor, Bill Copley, might not agree with such a change in policy, but that it was necessary to accommodate the request from the Centre Georges Pompidou, due to the significance of the project.
---- The stereoscopic projection that was included in the 1977 Duchamp retrospective at the Centre Georges Pompidou was created by the Swedish artist-engineer Billy Klüver, working with color photography provided by the New York-based experimental filmmaker and freelance photographer Babette Mangolte. She was recommended to Klüver by Robert Rauschenberg, who had been greatly impressed by her photography of his 1976 mid-career retrospective at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Collection of Fine Arts in Washington, D.C. Adhering to the Museum’s requirement that she shoot the interior in a single session to avoid possible problems related to changes in humidity and temperature, Mangolte photographed Étant donnés on November 15, 1976, in black and white as well as color, using Kodacolor and Ektachrome film (see fig. 3.27). Anne d’Harnoncourt and Paul Matisse were both on hand when the wooden door was opened, but Theodor Siegl supervised Mangolte’s photography inside the room housing the tableau-construction. In a signed statement sent to Klüver and Turner, Mangolte agreed to deliver the six rolls of film and the negatives to the Museum after the project was concluded.
---- D’Harnoncourt strongly supported the decision to rescind the prohibition on photography, and it fell to her to inform Copley regarding the dramatic reversal of the Museum’s policy. He had been an outspoken advocate of the moratorium, but he recognized that he had been outvoted in the matter. In a letter to d’Harnoncourt written during the summer of 1976, a dejected Copley pleaded with the Museum to rethink its decision to lift the restrictions on photography: “While I do not feel I have a vote in this matter, I had conversations with Marcel Duchamp as to [whether Étant donnés] should ever be reproduced. My understanding was that he did not ever want it moved or reproduced. I have been asked about it many times by people who mayor may not have personal interest in seeing it reproduced. My own feeling is to defend what I consider to be Marcel’s intention and will consistently express myself negatively to any suggestion of reproducing the piece in any way.”
---- When Copley learned of Klüver’s plans to make a stereoscopic version of the Étant donnés interior for the 1977 Duchamp retrospective in Paris, he permanently severed all ties with the Cassandra Foundation and, by extension, with Duchamp’s tableau-construction, leaving attorney Barnet Hodes in charge of future decisions regarding the work. “Having been bothered so much by this kind of ping-pong game,” Copley wrote to d’Harnoncourt, “I’m hereby cutting the Gordean knot about my concern in the matter.” Teeny Duchamp had promised Copley that “if the colors are corny in the photograph [Klüver] will do it in black and white. Anyway, I hope I will be the one with you to give the final OK on it. I trust it will work because I think it is a shame to have a retrospective of Marcel’s work without it, as though it were a miscarriage!! I am sure MD would be more simple about letting it be seen.”
---- Copley’s handwritten and heartfelt reply repeated his long-held conviction that Duchamp did not want any photography of the interior, including stereoscopic images, since it was impossible to re-create the work’s special light and phantasmic atmosphere:
In the end, Teeny Duchamp approved Klüver’s stereoscopic version of Étant donnés, against Copley’s wishes, although she “understood all the deep reasons” he had raised against reproducing the work. Her decision, supported by Turner, d’Harnoncourt, and the Board of Trustees of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, temporarily ended the offlcial moratorium on photography of the nude mannequin and her bucolic environment. However, the decision by the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees, on May 12, 1976, to “free the staff to have proper photographs made, as appropriate, and prints released by the Museum,” was reversed in October 1976, when Turner agreed to uphold the existing contract with the Cassandra Foundation, and no further exceptions were granted during the remaining years of the ban on photography of the work’s interior.
* Taylor, Michael R.; Marcel Duchamp: Étant donnés, Philadelphia Museum of Art & Yale University Press, 2009, pp. 150-160, pp. 185-186. (Published on the occasion of an exhibition held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Aug. 15 - Nov. 1, 2009.)
 Anne d’Harnoncourt, interview with the author, Philadelphia, June 28, 2007.