Marcel Duchamp

24 January 1965


Offset lithographic drawings on both sides of 6 discs, 2 magnetized disc frames, felt covered wood frame, motorized machine. Courtesy: The David Bermant Foundation: Color, Light, Motion.

Rotoreliefs consists of six cardboard discs, printed on both sides with lithographic drawings.

Ten of the images were originally designed for Man Ray and Marc Allegret’s 1926 film Anémic Cinéma.

The original idea was that they would be ‘played’ on a record turntable at 33 revolutions per minute, to give the viewer an illusion of depth.

They also came with a box with a small hole in the top, which was meant to be put on the discs as they rotated, so that the viewer would use only one eye, thus enhancing the optical effect.

The Rotoreliefs are an example of Duchamp’s critical investigation of opticality. The eye seems to perceive a depth that, as the mind knows, is not there.

Duchamp made the first edition in 1935 and tried to sell it at the Concours Lépine, an annual exhibition of gadgets by ‘little inventors’, without success. Over the next few decades, he issued a number of further editions.

The version on display is from the so-called Milan edition of 1965, which is a reissue of 150 of the 1,000 Rotoreliefs from the 1953 New York edition. Marcel Duchamp is one of the most important artists of the 20th century, whose influence continues to be felt today. He was one of five children, four of whom became successful artists, while one died in infancy.