The 1913 Armory Show: Duchamp’s Shocking Impact

Artist Marc Latamie has exhibited work and delivered guest lectures around the world. Institutions at which Marc Latamie has presented include Columbia University, the University of Massachusetts Boston, and Harvard University, where he spoke at a symposium on Duchamp in 1999.

The International Exhibition of Modern Art, which first took place in New York City on February 17, 1913, is often referred to as the Armory Show. Many art historians believe its opening exhibition represented the beginning of Modernism in America. For example, the event marks the first use of the term “avant-garde” in reference to sculptures and paintings. The 4,000 guests who attended the show’s opening were particularly affected by the European artists represented, who included Gauguin, Van Gogh, Picasso, and Matisse. The show’s abstract imagery was entirely new, and the painting perhaps most discussed was “Nude Descending a Staircase” by Marcel Duchamp. The cubist image, described by a critic as resembling an explosion in a shingle factory, had a shocking impact. Reflecting upon the public response 50 years later, Duchamp remarked that this ability of art to shock was largely lost, lamenting that new movements are easily received and not entirely to their benefit.

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