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50 cc of Paris Air
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50 cc of Paris Air

Marcel Duchamp, American (born France), 1887 - 1968

Made in Paris, France, Europe


Glass ampoule (broken and later restored)

5 1/4 x 2 1/2 inches (13.3 × 6.4 cm)

© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris / Succession Marcel Duchamp

Curatorial Department:
European Painting

* Gallery 282, Modern and Contemporary Art, second floor (d’Harnoncourt Gallery)

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, 1950

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Duchamp purchased this "empty" ampoule from a pharmacist in Paris as a souvenir for his close friend and patron, Walter C. Arensberg. A vial with nothing in it may be the most insubstantial "work of art" imaginable. From a molecular point of view, air is not considered nothing, but when displayed so carefully in an art museum it seems to be less than one might expect. Its precise meaning was rendered even more unstable in 1949, when the ampoule was accidentally broken and repaired, thus begging the question: Is the air even from Paris anymore?

* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.