Dancing around the Bride: Cage, Cunningham, Johns, Rauschenberg, and Duchamp

Philadelphia Museum of Art

2012
$250,000

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Brandon Collwes, a former member of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, performs on the Main Stage of Dancing around the Bride. The bicycle wheel and chairs are by Robert Rauschenberg (in homage to Marcel Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel of 1913) for Merce Cunningham’s Travelogue production of 1977. Dancers appear courtesy of the Merce Cunningham Trust. Photo by Constance Mensh, courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

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Former members of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company perform in a Cunningham Event in the Philadelphia Museum of Art galleries during the exhibition Dancing around the Bride. Left to right: Emma Desjardins, Melissa Toogood, John Hinrichs, Marcie Munnerlyn, and Brandon Collwes. Dancers appear courtesy of the Merce Cunningham Trust. Photo by Constance Mensh, courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

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Art handlers install Philippe Parreno’s marquee at the entrance of Dancing around the Bride at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Photo by Constance Mensh, courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

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Carlos Basualdo, the Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Curator of Contemporary Art, stands before Jasper Johns' painting According to What (1964) in Dancing around the Bride. Photo by Constance Mensh, courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

A further study of one of the Philadelphia Museum of Art's (PMA) greatest artistic assets—its extensive collection of works by Marcel Duchamp—Dancing around the Bride traced the seminal artist's influence on the dance, music, and visual artwork of four equally protean figures: composer John Cage, choreographer Merce Cunningham, and visual artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. What made this exhibition timely was an increasing appetite among museums to show in their galleries that which had previously been inadmissible, namely the time-based practices of performance, in all its many guises. Curators Carlos Basualdo and Erica Battle teased out specific historical encounters and explicit influences amongst these five figures, and presented them in an environment designed and animated by French artist Philippe Parreno. The design included artworks, stage sets, prerecorded music, and videos, as well as live performances of both music and dance—the latter two coordinated with the John Cage Trust and the Merce Cunningham Trust. In addition to publishing a 448-page reader that included interviews, magazine articles, and book excerpts by leading scholars, critics, and the artists themselves, the PMA also co-hosted a symposium on this exhibition with the art history department at the University of Pennsylvania.