Picasso painted “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” in 1907; Virginia Woolf wrote that “on or about December 1910 human character changed”; and the first Cubist exhibition was held in 1911 – but of all the breakthrough-to-modernism years before the first world war, 1913 was the one, this exhibition suggests, that “produced thinking that would resonate its way through the future”. Proust began publishing A la recherche du temps perdu, Diaghilev produced Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, Guillaume Apollinaire wrote the first study of modernist painting, and the Armory Show was inaugurated in New York, where audiences were scandalised by Marcel Duchamp’s abstracted painting “Nude Descending a Staircase”.
Duchamp had by then given up painting because “in 1913 I had the happy idea to fasten a bicycle wheel to a kitchen stool and watch it turn” – art’s first readymade. This small centenary show, focused on sculpture, revisits that seminal piece through Elaine Sturtevant’s replica “Duchamp Bicycle Wheel” and others made in 1913. All turn on the idea of simultaneity, multiple viewpoints and simultaneous renditions of memory and experience – this is where Proust meets Cubism – and the exhibition explores the mutual influence of ideas about temporality and sculptural innovation.
Traditional understanding of the body or object in space was challenged by Cubist sculptures from Archipenko and Gaudier-Brzeska (the multi-perspective relief “Wrestlers”), by Boccioni’s Futurist constructions such as “Development of a Bottle in Space”, the dynamism of Baranov-Rossine’s “Rhythm” and by Duchamp’s twisted “3 Standard Stoppages”. Simultaneity characterised paintings too – Ardengo Soffici’s “Deconstruction of the Planes of a Lamp” is a fragmented depiction of a lamp, opened up through space and light – and even books, notably Sonia Delaunay’s and Blaise Cendrars’ “La Prose du Transsibérien” was printed on a sheet of paper two yards long, with interwoven images and texts to be read simultaneously. The aim was to capture the prismatic reality of the fast-moving industrial world, in works that often seem prescient about the cataclysm of 1914.
Until February 17, www.henry-moore.org