Marcel Duchamp: Étant donnés
Michael R. Taylor
INSTALLATION (Part 2)*
* Taylor, Michael R.; Marcel Duchamp: Étant donnés, Philadelphia Museum of Art & Yale University Press, 2009, pp. 141-150, pp. 184-185. (Published on the occasion of an exhibition held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Aug. 15 - Nov. 1, 2009.)
DOCUMENTING THE STUDIO
The cramped quarters of the studio on Eleventh Street were further documented by the photographer Denise Browne Hare in a portfolio of twenty-seven photographs that she took in the immediate aftermath of Duchamp’s death at the age of eighty-one. Once described by the painter Dorothea Tanning as “everybody’s best friend,” Browne Hare lived up to her reputation by befriending Duchamp and Teeny in the early 1950s, shortly before they were married. Browne Hare had been acquainted with Teeny beforehand and was a close friend of her children, Paul, Jacqueline, and Peter Matisse; but the friendship with Duchamp and Teeny grew when she met her second husband, the Surrealist sculptor David Hare, whom she married in 1962. By this time, Browne Hare had begun taking photographs, although she refused to exhibit them during her lifetime. Charmed by her effervescent personality, stunning good looks, and love of bilingual puns, Duchamp and Teeny invited Browne Hare and her daughter Topher to join them in the summer of 1965 on their annual vacation in Cadaqués.
---- Staying in the building where Duchamp had an apartment overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, Browne Hare enjoyed a relaxing vacation, watching the artist play chess and smoke cigars under the brightly colored canopy of Meliton, his favorite seaside bar in Cadaqués; visiting Salvador Dalí at his home in Port Lligat; and later making a shopping expedition to the Spanish artist’s birthplace, the small Catalonian market town of Figueres. In retrospect, the trip to Figueres was especially auspicious, since Duchamp took Teeny, Browne Hare, and Topher to lunch at one of his favorite restaurants, a modest outdoor cafe that offered only a few tables covered with checkered oilcloths. As Browne Hare recounted,
---- She later discovered that the waterfall, known as Le Caula, was activated by opening a dam in a lake high above the restaurant. On this particular afternoon, the water was released by the two boys whom Duchamp had paid. Browne Hare recalled that the artist feigned indifference to the roaring rush of plunging water just twenty feet away, within splashing distance of his guests, although “Duchamp must have chuckled to himself” as he privately enjoyed the allusion to the waterfall element of the Étant donnés landscape backdrop (FIG. 3a.11). “In hindsight,” Browne Hare related, “I would say he was pretty cool about it all. A few months later, when we all met again in New York, I gave the Duchamps prints of some of the photographs I had taken during my visit with them, this one among them. They seemed delighted by it―n fact a bit overly complimentary I thought―but, you see, I didn’t know about the existence of Étant donnés then and the meaning of the waterfall.”
---- Following their vacation together in the summer of 1965, Duchamp approached Browne Hare “two or three times with questions about photography,” yet never once mentioned his work on Étant donnés or the Manual of Instructions. He inquired “about different cameras, particularly about Polaroids: What kinds were available? Were they difficult to handle?” These questions puzzled the young photographer, since she had never seen Duchamp use a camera, but the artist probably followed her advice in taking the Polaroid images that were used in both versions of the manual.
---- When Duchamp died on October 2, 1968, Teeny entrusted Paul Matisse, her elder son from her first marriage, to look after Étant donnés while she remained in France to take care of the funeral and arrange for the artist’s burial in the family plot in Rouen. Until then, Matisse had been unaware of the existence of the secret work; but in early December 1968, when he visited the Eleventh Street studio, he immediately recognized the importance of the elaborate tableau-construction and set about documenting the work and its environment, as well as building crates and boxes for its transportation to Philadelphia. In a letter to his mother, written shortly after this first visit, Matisse reported the potential pitfalls of moving the work to Philadelphia and installing it at the Museum. These hazards included accumulation of dust, lightbulbs that could overheat or burn out, and the immense task of bringing Duchamp’s convoluted and highly illegal systems of lighting and wiring up to code.
---- “The wiring is a work of art in its own right,” he wrote, “but at some day an insurance company man will discover it.” For every problem he identified, Matisse made precise recommendations to amend the situation; he believed that the project could be “accomplished successfully,” although he tried to rule himself out of the job since he was living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he had recently launched a company to produce and sell his patented invention, the Kalliroscope, an ever-changing work of art consisting of liquid crystals in constant flux. “Who will do the job?” he asked his mother. “You need someone who can read the book in French, design the mechanisms, and then do the work after the boxes and such have been built. I hope that you will try to, and succeed in, finding someone, since I live far away and presently find it impossible to fulfill even my current commitments. But I am here, and if there were really no other way, I would, of course, do it for you.” It soon became apparent to both Teeny and the Museum’s Director, Evan Turner, that Matisse, with his background as an engineer and artist, as well as his adulation of Duchamp and his work, was the best-qualified person to carry out the project. After Matisse agreed to offer his services, the Museum paid him a consulting fee of $150.00 for each day he spent away from his work in Cambridge, along with reimbursement for miscellaneous expenses such as travel and supplies.
---- Having persuaded her son to handle the logistics of the move, Teeny Duchamp—perhaps unaware of museum procedures and protocol in such matters—became increasingly alarmed at the institution’s delay in formally accepting the gift, about which it had been notified in October 1968. Nervous that Turner was getting cold feet due to the work’s risqué subject matter, in December Teeny invited George Cheston, who in June had succeeded Bonnie Wintersteen as President of the Museum, to view Étant donnés in the Eleventh Street studio—a move that incensed Turner, who felt that he was doing everything in his power to persuade the Museum’s Trustees to accept the work.
---- Due to the Museum’s lengthy process of seeking committee and board approval for the gift, the work remained in the studio for a period of nearly five months after Duchamp’s death, during which time Teeny stayed with Browne Hare and joined the discussions taking place between the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Cassandra Foundation regarding photography, publicity, and the transportation of the work to Philadelphia. With great foresight, Teeny assigned to Browne Hare the difficult tasks of capturing the ambience of Duchamp’s cramped Eleventh Street studio and looking after the work itself until it could be transferred to the Museum. Browne Hare did not begin photographing the work until after Christmas, but she had documented the room to her satisfaction by New Year’s Day, thus allowing precise dating of her photographs to the final days of December 1968.
---- Browne Hare found it necessary to visit room 403 every two to three days to ensure that the temperature did not fluctuate, which could cause the mannequin’s papery skin to dry out and crack. On January 3, 1969, Matisse returned to the studio to inspect the mannequin and was horrified to find “the Nu with a considerable number of new cracks.” He executed a rough yet beautiful ink sketch of the mannequin that indicates nineteen visible fissures, the largest of which was 6,1 centimeters long (fig. 3.15). He also photographed the nude to document the cracks, which he believed were caused by heat from vertical pipes in the corner of the room (fig. 3.16a,b). Since being installed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the cracks in the mannequin have been carefully monitored by the Museum’s Conservation Department, and no further deterioration has been reported.
---- Along with the cracks in the mannequin’s parchment torso, Matisse also identified the supporting structure of the old Spanish door as another area of concern, since he believed that the hooks Duchamp had provided were insufficient for the door’s enormous weight. Matisse documented the door’s installation in the studio through black-and-white photographs to help him determine a solution at a later date (see fig. 3.17a,b). He eventually devised a hanging system for the four-paneled door that would support its weight and allow the individual parts to be moved to one side through a track mounted on the ceiling, thus making possible future photography of the tableau’s interior. Shortly after his visit on January 3, 1969, Matisse installed a humidifier to regulate the temperature of room 403 in a bid to prevent further cracks of the nude; during a subsequent visit on January 17, he noted on his original sketch that the temperature and humidity were both satisfactory. In a letter to Theodor Siegl, the Museum’s Conservator, who had accompanied him to the studio on January 3, Matisse declared that “the crack problem is a serious one, but isn’t it curious that the large glass is also cracked, as well as the smaller one in the apartment [Nine Malic Moulds, of 1914-15]; I don’t know what to make of it.”
---- When Matisse first brought Browne Hare to room 403, located on the fourth floor of an unassuming office building, down a narrow hallway with numerous indistinguishable doors, she was amused to find that Duchamp’s studio formerly had been occupied by the Majestic Optical Company, an ocular reference that the artist must have found almost too good to be true while working on his peepshow construction. The offices of the Salesmen & Poultry Workers Union Local 662, located next door to Duchamp’s studio, added a further comical twist. Browne Hare recalled imagining the hilarious conversations that might have taken place between the artist, who had worked with animal skins in the creation of Étant donnés, and his chicken-plucking neighbors. This explains why she photographed not only Duchamp’s studio door but also the metal door of room 402, which bore the union’s official title (see FIG. 3B.1A and FIG. 3B.1B).
---- After Duchamp’s death, his neighbors showed interest in what was taking place in room 403 only once, when Bill Copley posted a uniformed Pinkerton security guard outside the door, seeking to protect his foundation’s investment. As Browne Hare humorously recalled, the conspicuous placement of the guard simply drew more attention to the increased level of activity taking place behind the door: “One day a Pinkerton man was sent over to guard it. But, since no one was allowed to see the piece, he had to sit on a chair—outside in the hall and in uniform. Soon enough people in the building took notice and wanted to know what the fuss was all about. The guards were rapidly dismissed and the insurance policy must have been canceled since the work couldn’t be adequately protected. The whole situation was absurd. It became more dangerous to insure than not.”
---- When she opened the door and entered the studio, Browne Hare was met with another portal, this time the weather-beaten Spanish door, which stood two feet away. In a 1996 interview, she recalled that Paul Matisse had instructed her to wait in the hallway while he removed the two hand-wrought iron nails (FIG. 3a.12), set at eye level, that Duchamp had kept in place to block the peepholes while he worked on other aspects of the tableau-construction. Once the peepholes were exposed, Matisse asked Browne Hare to enter the studio and take a look inside the two holes in the splintered door. According to her recollection, the scene beyond was simply “indescribable,” although the photographs she took provide eloquent testimony to the work’s riveting visual power. Like Duchamp’s own images in the Manual of Instructions, her evocative photographs offer new insights into the work’s hidden mechanisms and the artist’s dexterity in creating a nearly flawless visual illusion in the finished diorama.
---- On subsequent trips to the studio, which she often visited alone, Browne Hare would remove the iron nails and hold them while she peeked through the peepholes. “The physical act of taking them out was so exciting,” she remembered, “and very much a part of the erotic thrill of the piece for me, as they implicated you in the work, since you had the choice not to look, but you looked anyway.” This solitary experience was quite different from her first encounter with the work, when the presence of Matisse behind her brought home the voyeurism of the work. Browne Hare later lamented the Museum’s “necessary and thoroughly practical decision” in July 1969 to display the work without the nails, which almost certainly would have been stolen, or would have caused enormous delays during the first weeks that the work went on view, since the lines leading into the room housing Étant donnés wound through the adjacent galleries. The Museum also mounted a glass plate on metal L-hooks inside the inner door to prevent visitors from depositing candy wrappers, chewing gum, and other items of trash, as well as written messages to Duchamp, through the binocular peepholes.
---- Many of Browne Hare’s photographs document the secret work’s elaborate lighting systems, including neon tubes to illuminate the painted sky and a bizarre snakelike form made out of a tangle of bound wires, cables, and extension cords, which she worried would pose a fire hazard. She also was fascinated by the work’s jerrybuilt wooden support structure and complex mechanical operations, all of which were deliberately hidden from view when the work was installed at the Museum according to Duchamp’s written instructions. Far from diminishing the illusionism of the completed work, Browne Hare’s photographs enhance our appreciation of Duchamp’s systematic working methods and his ability to control with the utmost precision what the viewer can and cannot see through the peepholes. Browne Hare seems to have been especially intrigued by the waterfall component of Étant donnés, perhaps due to her earlier experience of photographing Duchamp and Teeny in front of the cascading waterfall at Figueres. Her images featuring the pulsing landscape backdrop, as well as the hidden motor-driven apparatus that simulates the falling water, attempt to translate into the medium of black-and-white still photography the shimmering waterfall, which as Browne Hare insightfully observed, “intensifies the blue of the sky, giving it extravagant luminosity and depth.” She also filmed the studio with an 8mm movie camera, believing that “the stillness of the piece would be intensified by the panning of the camera.” However, she was disappointed with the film’s exaggerated, garish colors, and much preferred the subtle atmospheric effects of her photographs.
---- She later spoke of her task as a photographer in this situation as an effort “to capture the artist’s spirit through my choice of framing—of editing,” and in doing so to let “the studio reveal itself, unfold.” Browne Hare’s photographs of Duchamp’s compact studio clearly convey the neat and tidy arrangement of everything in the room, suggesting that at the time of his death the artist no longer was constructing the work but rather preparing for its eventual transportation (in two images, a large wooden packing crate sits on the floor like a Minimalist sculpture; see FIG. 3B.1C and FIG. 3B.1D) and ironing out some final kinks in the viewing position. Exhaustively documenting the studio from all angles, Browne Hare’s images reveal that she moved around the edges of the space to obtain the best possible shot of the work itself, while also recording the surrounding furniture, tools, and equipment. “The physicality of that room was so amazing,” she later recalled, “that I was drawn to it as much as [to] the work itself.”
---- There were several books in the studio, according to Browne Hare, mainly texts on philosophy, but also volumes on India and a well-thumbed copy of Alfred Jarry’s dense 1898 novel, Gestes et opinions du Docteur Faustroll, ‘Pataphysician (Exploits and Opinions of Doctor Faustroll, ‘Pataphysician). The studio also housed Duchamp’s birth certificate, marriage license, several erotic objects, the first and second versions of the Manual of Instructions, and numerous materials related to the making of Étant donnés, including extra twigs and dry leaves, a large, rolled piece of cow skin (possibly a remnant from the material that Duchamp had used to cover the nude’s torso), and finally a metal ladder that Teeny later gave to Browne Hare—along with a breast-shaped piece of lead that the photographer would use as a paperweight—in appreciation for her hard work documenting and looking after the studio and the tableau-construction. With the exception of the lead weight, none of these objects appears in the photographs, suggesting that they were locked in a cabinet. Her documentary impulse resonates with the pragmatic purpose of Duchamp’s own images of the studio, and led Browne Hare to treat the photographs like shards of broken pottery, which when put back together would re-create the uncluttered appearance and serene atmosphere of the room and its contents in a fragmented, poetic, and perhaps more truthful and evocative way than could be achieved in sweeping, panoramic views of the entire space.
---- The striking visual beauty found in the best of Browne Hare’s photographs also suggests a personal response to Étant donnés and its environment, as in her image of the inner, broken brick wall, the uneven, jagged edges of which look as if they had been created by cannon fire. Photographed at an oblique angle, the bricks frame a darkened, inky-black interior rather than the illuminated scene of the mannequin and its landscape environment, thus lending a sense of mystery and foreboding to what lies beyond our viewpoint (FIG. 3B.1E). Elsewhere, the exquisite images of the nude mannequin are handled with a degree of sensitivity that rarely has been matched (see FIG. 3B.1F-K). Having completed her assignment and captured to the best of her ability the artist’s studio, as well as what she later called “the mystery and poetry” of Étant donnés, Browne Hare went on to specialize in photographing artists and their working environments, including the studios of Max Bill, Louise Bourgeois, Philip Guston, Willem de Kooning, Joan Mitchell, Isamu Noguchi, Alfonso Ossorio, and Saul Steinberg.
FIG. 3B.1A - FIG. 3B.1K
Shortly after the artist’s death in October 1968, the Philadelphia Museum of Art received word from the Cassandra Foundation that it would be given one last work by Marcel Duchamp, and preparations were quickly made to present the piece to the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees for approval. Evan H. Turner, the Museum’s Director from 1964 until 1978, assigned Anne d’Harnoncourt—then a twenty-five-year-old Curatorial Assistant in the Department of Painting and Sculpture—to supervise the work’s installation at the Museum in Gallery 1759, adjoining the gallery housing Duchamp’s Large Glass (fig. 3.18). Turner may have selected d’Harnoncourt because she had met and interviewed Duchamp the previous year, having recently studied his work and ideas under John Golding, an authority on Cubism, at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, where she completed her master’s thesis in 1967.
---- D’Harnoncourt was instructed by the Museum’s Director that she would be working in partnership with Paul Matisse and the Museum’s Conservator, Theodor Siegl, to dismantle and pack the work in New York and supervise its move to Philadelphia. Once the entire tableau-construction was unpacked, it would be partially reassembled at the Museum by d’Harnoncourt and Matisse and then stored in Gallery 16119, while construction and electrical work took place in Gallery 1759, the work’s final resting place. D’Harnoncourt and Siegl were assigned to handle the technical details associated with preparing this gallery, which required, among other things, the installation of overhead tracks for the lights, an air-conditioning system, a humidifier, and a cybertronic thermostat for regulating the room’s temperature. This work was carried out in collaboration with Robert D. Lipsey, the Museum’s Superintendent, and Carl A. Colozzi, Assistant Director for Services. Once Gallery 1759 was ready to receive Étant donnés, Paul Matisse would return to supervise the final installation.
---- At Turner’s suggestion, Walter Hopps, who had organized Duchamp’s first retrospective exhibition (in 1963 at the Pasadena Art Museum), was invited to write a scholarly essay on Étant donnés for publication in the Bulletin of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, while d’Harnoncourt was to be responsible for a postscript on the work’s relationship to recent developments in contemporary art. In the end, the two curators collaborated on a joint essay that remains one of the most important texts written to date on Duchamp. This publication would not be released until after Étant donnés went on display, thus avoiding any advance publicity for the work in accordance with the artist’s clandestine approach to its construction. Turner feared that if the existence of Étant donnés were revealed too soon, a deluge of inquiries from journalists, scholars, and the artist’s friends and colleagues would ensue, thus slowing the immense task of disassembling the work in New York, transporting it to the Museum, and reassembling it there. Eager to avoid breaking the news before the tableau-construction had been successfully installed in Philadelphia, Turner instructed his staff to maintain complete secrecy surrounding the work and, in a move that sounds as if it could have come from the plot of a Cold War spy novel, he requested that Étant donnés be referred to by its code name “Project 403” or simply “No. 403” in all Museum correspondence.
---- On December 4, 1968, accompanied by Bill Copley and Teeny Duchamp, Turner visited the Eleventh Street studio to view Étant donnés in situ. As Turner reported in his datebook entry for that day, it was “a startling and quite unexpected experience.” He had met Duchamp two years earlier, on October 26, 1966, when the artist visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art to negotiate loans for an exhibition entitled Les Duchamps, which would take place in Paris and Rouen the following year and include works by Duchamp, Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Jacques Villon, and Suzanne Duchamp. From this initial encounter, Turner formed an impression of the artist as “a curiously enigmatic man with considerable charm.” But nothing in Duchamp’s previous work or charismatic demeanor had prepared Turner for what he saw in the artist’s studio that day in 1968, and the Museum’s Director, fully aware of the historical importance of this moment in the institution’s history, made extensive notes about the work on the train home:
---- On December 13, 1968, Anne d’Harnoncourt, Theodor Siegl, and Henry G. Gardiner, Assistant Curator in the Museum’s Department of Painting and Sculpture, visited the Eleventh Street studio for the first time. This visit was followed by several subsequent trips to Duchamp’s studio in January and February 1969, during which Siegl and d’Harnoncourt studied the condition of the piece—paying close attention to the state of the mannequin’s cracked surface—and worked with Paul Matisse on a plan to disassemble and pack the work in preparation for its imminent move to Philadelphia. Matisse’s earlier concerns about the accumulation of dust and light fixtures that would overheat or burn out too quickly were addressed by Siegl, who at their January 3, 1969, meeting recommended that the Museum seal the part of the gallery in which the work was to be housed, and raise the height of the overhead lights and hang them on a ceiling-mounted track for safer replacement. In addition, Matisse and Siegl agreed to the installation of a large sheet of glass below the lights to reduce the level of heat directly above the mannequin (a strategy that they later discovered had been specified by Duchamp in the Manual of Instructions), along with an ultraviolet screen below the fluorescent lightbulbs.
A BOMBSHELL IN THE ART WORLD
The historic meeting of the Museum’s Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees, at which Duchamp’s secret tableau-construction was offered to the institution, took place on January 15, 1969. George Cheston, the Museum’s President, introduced the subject of Étant donnés, which he described as “a heretofore unknown work of Marcel Duchamp that had occupied the bulk of his efforts during the last twenty years of his life.” Cheston explained to the assembled committee members that the work had been offered as a gift by its present owner, William Nelson Copley, through the Cassandra Foundation, and then asked Turner to provide “additional information about this surprise in the art world.” The Museum’s Director outlined the circumstances under which Copley had acquired the elaborate work, as well as Duchamp’s expressed wish that his “environmental conception” come to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and be exhibited alongside his other works there, including Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 (1912) and The Large Glass (1915-23), whose ideas were developed further in the new piece.
---- Turner informed the assembled committee members that he had seen the work in Duchamp’s New York studio, along with Anne d’Harnoncourt, Henry Gardiner, and Theodor Siegl of the Museum’s staff, and a few trustees, who were not named in the meeting’s minutes but whom we now can identify as Berenice “Bonnie” Wintersteen, George Cheston, and Henry Clifford. According to Turner, everyone who had seen Étant donnés was “in complete agreement that the Museum must accept such an important work,” but since many members of the Executive Committee were being asked to approve the gift sight unseen, Turner had the difficult task of describing a work that was virtually indescribable. It is “a three dimensional creation,” he began, “some twelve feet deep, very like a room; the composition, installed behind a handsome Spanish door, is viewed through two holes in the door itself.”
---- After offering his factual description of Étant donnés, Turner invited Clifford, not only a Museum Trustee but also a former Curator of Painting, to provide the historical context for the work by discussing Duchamp’s background and accomplishments as an artist. Clifford was not a member of the committee, but as a former curator he had been invited, at the request of Cheston and Turner, to speak to Duchamp’s importance. Using a series of quotations from the artist himself, as well as from recognized scholars, Clifford reviewed Duchamp’s life and art, paying close attention to his New York Dada period, his preoccupation with chess, and the recent revival of interest in his work by younger American and European artists, such as Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Niki de Saint-Phalle, Jean Tinguely, and Andy Warhol. Clifford closed his carefully prepared remarks with the insightful observation that “in a Museum so rich in period rooms [Étant donnés] would add one of this century.” By 1950, when Duchamp had begun to plan the installation of the Arensberg Collection, which required numerous visits to Philadelphia, the Museum had built an impressive collection of period rooms, including a seventeenth-century wood-paneled room from the Het Scheepje (The Little Ship) in Haarlem, and the sumptuous drawing room from Lansdowne House in London, which Robert Adam designed in the eighteenth century. Duchamp must have been aware of the theatrical staging of these interiors, which were viewed from a controlled vantage point outside the room, as he planned his own site-specific installation at the Museum.
---- Clifford’s sensitive observations were followed by Henry McIlhenny’s blunt statement that the work under discussion was “both weird and fascinating with a remarkable impact.” He raised the specter of public protests and censorship when he declared that the overtly sexual subject matter of Duchamp’s “fantastic creation” had “certain problems connected with its exhibition, which the Museum must consider seriously in receiving the work as a gift.” To make his point, McIlhenny passed around a reproduction of the preliminary study for Étant donnés (FIG. 3a.7) that had been shown at Duchamp’s 1966 retrospective at the Tate Gallery in London, The Almost Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp. This leather-and-plaster work had been lent to the exhibition by Maria Martins without Duchamp’s knowledge or consent, and its presentation of an open-crotched female nude gave committee members a clearer idea of the explicit sexual content of Étant donnés than they had received from Turner’s earlier, matter-of-fact statement on the work’s size and viewing apparatus, or from Clifford’s efforts to associate the tableau-assemblage with the Museum’s period rooms. After some debate, the general feeling among those in attendance was that, although the piece was not as sexually suggestive as certain works by other contemporary artists, the Museum should be prepared for criticism. McIlhenny spoke for all those assembled when he declared that, “in accepting the offer, the board and staff must stand firmly behind the decision and exhibit it openly.” He also stressed that “many other American and European museums would take it without hesitation if we were to turn it down.”
---- The publicity surrounding the presentation of Étant donnés was also discussed. Turner informed the committee that Bill Copley and Teeny Duchamp did “not wish any fanfare upon its first being shown,” in accordance with “the quietness with which the artist created the work.” Although one trustee proposed that the Museum take advantage of both positive and negative publicity, since even the latter would increase attendance, the vast majority of committee members agreed with Turner that the work should be displayed with a minimum of publicity and without a press release. The Director also advised that the object label simply state this was “the last work of Marcel Duchamp and may be viewed as the climax of thoughts he had explored in the Large Glass.” Given the nature of the viewing experience, Turner declared that no photography of the piece should be allowed. The question of the cost of the work’s installation at the Museum also was raised. After revealing that Paul Matisse would be paid to help install the work, Turner predicted that the final expenditure, including construction costs, would be between five and ten thousand dollars, although the Cassandra Foundation probably would defray some of this amount. However, the Director advised that the Museum initially should express to Copley and his foundation its overwhelming enthusiasm for the gift, reserving the question of shared expenses for a later date. McIlhenny then put forward a motion for the acceptance of the work, which was duly seconded and unanimously approved by the Executive Committee, thus ensuring that Duchamp’s erotic tableau-construction had found its final resting place.
---- In a letter to Teeny Duchamp dated January 20, 1969, Turner broke the exciting news that the work had been unanimously accepted by the Executive Committee of the Museum’s Board of Trustees, without restrictions: “With great fascination the Executive Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art learned at its meeting of January 15th of your husband’s last major achievement and, after careful consideration and discussion, the committee was unanimous in its resolution to accept the deeply appreciated offer of Mr. Copley’s foundation of the work as a gift to the Museum. Its advent will unquestionably add an exciting dimension to the collections of the Museum.” The Executive Committee’s enthusiastic approval of the gift vindicated Turner’s behind-the-scenes lobbying and helped pave the way for the work’s acceptance by the full Board of Trustees and the Painting and Sculpture Committee. In the meantime, in a “hurried chat [with Turner] about the Duchamp matter,” Barnet Hodes, the foundation’s lawyer and secretary-treasurer, expressed his fear that he might receive difficult questions from journalists seeking information about the existence and destination of Duchamp’s work. Turner prepared a factual yet deliberately vague statement for the press in the event that word of the existence of Duchamp’s secret sculpture-construction leaked out: “The late Marcel Duchamp worked steadily from 1946 to 1966 on a large composition which has been acquired by the Cassandra Foundation. Negotiations are now underway for transferring the piece to a major American public collection.” As the Museum’s Director explained to Hodes, the statement “accepts the existence of the object but does not give any information,” thus buying both parties more time as they prepared for the work’s installation and eventual unveiling later that year.
---- The meeting of the Museum’s Executive Committee was followed by a meeting of the Board of Trustees on February 19, 1969, when Turner again made the case for accepting the gift of Duchamp’s Étant donnés, which he praised as “the last great achievement of the artist.” The Museum’s Director described the news that Duchamp “had been working secretly on a three-dimensional creation for the last twenty years” as “a bombshell in the art world,” but then toned down his rhetoric by declaring that the work “pursues even further the thinking of the artist evident in the Great Glass.” Turner closed his remarks with the forthright statement that “there can be no question that any museum would be more than happy to have it.” Following a motion by R. Sturgis Ingersoll, the Board of Trustees unanimously approved the gift. Subsequently, the Museum’s Painting and Sculpture Committee also unanimously approved the gift at its meeting on April 8, by which time the work was safely stored in the building and awaiting construction. The minutes of this meeting record that the committee chairman, Henry McIlhenny, described the work as “fantastic,” while Turner explained the arrangements of its acquisition, its future location in the Museum, and the institution’s wishes, shared by Teeny Duchamp, that no publicity be attached to its initial exhibition. Turner concluded that the gift represented “the crowning glory of the artist’s work,” while McIlhenny, in accepting the work for the Museum’s collection, predicted that “the Duchamp creation would be an artistic landmark of the 20th century.”
---- On January 20, 1969, the same day that Turner informed Teeny of the board’s approval of the gift, he also wrote to Copley—the Museum’s “grandly generous donor”—and reported that the Executive Committee had accepted the work: “There was ... no hesitation in the decision of the Executive Committee—and neither Mr. Clifford, Mr. McIlhenny, nor I minced any words in the presentation. I was pleased. I shall ‘phone Madame Duchamp to arrange a meeting at which time I shall expect to see you. But in the meantime I do want to say to you how deeply we all appreciate this splendid gesture on the part of your Foundation!”
* Taylor, Michael R.; Marcel Duchamp: Étant donnés, Philadelphia Museum of Art & Yale University Press, 2009, pp. 141-150, pp. 184-185. (Published on the occasion of an exhibition held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Aug. 15 - Nov. 1, 2009.)
 See Monique Fong, “Sur Denise,” Étant donnés Marcel Duchamp, no. 3 (2001), p. 42.