Published on the 50th anniversary of Marcel Duchamp's death, Duchamp's Last Day offers a radical reading of the artist's final hours. Just moments after Duchamp died, his closest friend, Man Ray, took a photograph of him. His face is wan; his eyes are closed; he appears calm. Taking this image as a point of departure, Donald Shambroom examines its context—the dinner with Man Ray and another friend, Robert Lebel, the night Duchamp died, the conversations about his own death at that dinner and elsewhere and the larger question of whether Duchamp's death can be read as an extension of his work.
Shambroom's research into this final night and his analysis of the photograph feeds into questions about the nature of artworks and authorship, which Duchamp raised in his lifetime. In the case of this once long-lost photograph (reproduced for the first time here), who is the author—Man Ray or Duchamp? Is it an artwork or merely a record? Duchamp's Last Day is filled with intricate details from decades of research into this peculiar encounter between art, life and death.
Donald Shambroom (born 1950) is a visual artist, writer and curator whose work is in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. In 1973, after graduating from Yale University where he studied philosophy and painting, Shambroom moved to Boston to pursue his career as a painter. His work has been shown at Francis Naumann gallery and Half Gallery in New York, and at Howard Yezerski Gallery in Boston. For the past decade, he has lived and worked on the banks of the Millers River in north central Massachusetts.