MARCEL DUCHAMP AND EVE BABITZ
Marcel Duchamp and Eve Babitz for TIME Magazine in 1963.
Julian Wasser's most notorious photo session on assignment for TIME Magazine was of groundbreaking Dada and conceptional artist Marcel Duchamp playing chess with a naked Eve Babitz at the Pasadena Museum of Art (now the Norton Simon Museum) in 1963. The exhibition, organized by Walter Hopps, then director of the museum, was Duchamp's first landmark retrospective.
This comprehensive survey of Duchamp's storied career began in 1911 at the legendary Armory show in New York. Duchamp, by this time, was the most influential artist in the world, having revolutionized the modern art world with his unconventional concepts. It was Duchamp who coined the phrase, "It is art because I say it is," when he signed and dated a shovel he had purchased in a hardware store in 1913.
At the time of the retrospective, Wasser, whose keen insight into his subjects, learned that Duchamp had retired from being an artist to pursue his passion to become a professional chess player. So Wasser decided to set up a shot with Duchamp playing chess. He set up a chess board in front of Duchamp's infamous artwork "The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even" (1915-1923) which was being exhibited at the museum. In keeping with the theme of the "bride stripped bare," Wasser enlisted 19-year old Eve Babitz, the mischievous daughter of a friend of the family, to pose nude playing chess with Duchamp.
Babitz, a child of the authentic lineage and cultural milieu of Los Angeles of the 1960's, agreed to the photo shoot, in part, because it was interesting, but also, unbeknownst to others, she was having an affair with curator Walter Hopps and was not invited to the opening.
In the end, this photograph became a memoire of not only an iconic Marcel Duchamp, but also of a young Eve Babitz, who became a symbol of the sexual revolution of 1960's Los Angeles, who went on to become a fleeting lover of celebrities such as Jim Morrison, Steve Martin and Harrison Ford. Today, Babitz is a celebrated author and often considered the West Coast Joan Didion.
For Julian Wasser, this photograph became THE seminal moment of his career.
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