David Zwirner Books
4 ¼ × 7 in | 10.8 × 17.8 cm
Published on the fiftieth anniversary of Marcel Duchamp’s death, Duchamp’s Last Day offers a radical reading of the artist’s final hours.
Just moments after Duchamp died, his closest friend Man Ray took a photograph of him. His face is wan; his eyes are closed; he appears calm. Taking this image as a point of departure, Donald Shambroom begins to examine the surrounding context—the dinner with Man Ray and another friend, Robert Lebel, the night Duchamp died, the conversations about his own death at that dinner and elsewhere, and the larger question of whether this radical artist’s death can be read as an extension of his work.
Shambroom’s in-depth research into this final night, and his analysis of the photograph, feeds into larger questions about the very nature of artworks and authorship which Duchamp raised in his lifetime. In the case of this mysterious and once long-lost photograph, who is the author? Man Ray or Duchamp? Is it an artwork or merely a record? Has the artist himself turned into one of his own readymades?
A fascinating essay that is both intimate and steeped in art history, Duchamp’s Last Day is filled with intricate details from decades of research into this peculiar encounter between art, life, and death. Shambroom’s book is a wonderful study of one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century.
Donald Shambroom is a visual artist, writer, curator, and videographer whose work is in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. In 1973, after graduating from Yale University where he studied philosophy and painting, Shambroom moved to Boston to pursue his career as a painter. Shambroom’s interest in Marcel Duchamp began in 1969, when he read Calvin Tomkins’s The World of Marcel Duchamp in highschool. His essays have appeared in Weltkunst (Duchamp’s Last Readymade, 2014), CFile (A Urinal Called Fountain, 2017), and Tout-Fait (Marcel Duchamp and Glass, 1999 and Leonardo’s Optics Through the Eyes of Duchamp: A Note on the Small Glass, 2000). He produced “Common Screech Owl, a Miller’s River Story” (2013), a multi-media natural history installation, and “The Garnet Cabinet” (2012), a meditation on crystal structure. Shambroom’s work has been shown at Francis Naumann gallery and Half Gallery in New York, and at Howard Yezerski Gallery in Boston. For the past decade, he has lived and worked on the banks of the Millers River in north central Massachusetts.