Sims Reed Rare Books×

First Papers of Surrealism

Duchamp, Marcel & André Breton

New York. Coordinating Council of French Relief Societies, Inc. 1942
An excellent copy of the seminal 1942 'Surrealism-in-Exile' exhibition catalogue.

Curated by André Breton and featuring - among many other exhibits - Duchamp's installation of twine ('Sixteen Miles of String'), 'First Papers of Surrealism' was held in 1942 from October 14th to 7th November at the Whitelaw Reid Mansion in Madison Avenue to benefit France. The first major exhibition of Surrealism in America, 'First Papers of Surrealism' - as an exhibition and catalogue it followed closely previous Surrealist exhibitions and catalogues - included precursors, Surrealists who had fled the war in Europe as well as allusion to those who remained ('Circumstances make it impossible for us to represent properly or by their most recent works, a number of artists ... Rather than give an insufficient idea of them, we have with regret omitted surrealist objects from this catalogue ... '); where examples of artists' work are included, found photographs depicting others are displayed in place of portraits of the artists or writers themselves.

Featuring Sydney Janis' 'Introduction', text by R. A. Parker ('Explorers of the Pluriverse') and extracts of letters from Matisse, reproductions of Surrealist works and images of Surrealist heroes and heroines, contributors to the exhibition included Duchamp, Ernst, Tanguy, Gordon Onslow-Ford, Kay Sage, David Hare, Frida Kahlo, Alexander Calder, Robert Motherwell, Wifredo Lam, Meret Oppenheim and many, many others. Duchamp's 'Sixteen Miles of String' was produced - string was a cheap material but Duchamp only used two of the sixteen miles he purchased, one for the initial installation which caught fire and another mile to replace it - at the behest of Elsa Schiaparelli and caused 'an entanglement which the visitor experienced in finding his way to the paintings.'

'The surrealist cause, in art as in life, is the cause of freedom itself. Today more than ever to speak abstractly in the name of freedom or to praise it in empty terms is to serve it ill. To light the world freedom must become flesh and to this end must always be reflected and recreated in the 'word'.' (André Breton's 'Foreword').

'For the front cover, Duchamp chose a closeup of the wall of Kurt Seligmann's barn in Sugar Loaf, New York, on which can be seen the traces of five rifle shots actually fired by Duchamp, the paper is perforated in correspondence with the shots. (By a tragic coincidence, Kurt Seligmann ended his life with a rifle shot twenty years later.) For the back cover, Duchamp reproduced a slice of Gruyere cheese, greatly enlarged, on which the title, date, and place of the exhibition are printed.' (Schwarz).

[see Schwarz Revised 487; Schwarz 313; Lebel 180].
[26 unnumbered leaves]. Small folio. (266 x 184 mm). Leaf of wove turquoise paper with introductory texts by Breton in English and French and credits verso, leaf with list of sponsors verso, leaf with title with calligrammatic list of contributors verso, 'Foreword' by Sidney Janis and contents including monochrome vignettes, reproduction photographs and illustration throughout, printed text in English and French throughout, all on glossy white paper, final leaf of wove turquoise paper. Original publisher's yellow printed perforated glossy wrappers by Marcel Duchamp (see below), stapled as issued, front cover with monochrome reproduction photograph of a wall and five small circular holes (matching bullet holes in the wall) making visible the turquoise initial leaf, rear cover with monochrome reproduction photograph of cheese and title and exhibition details in green.

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