Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
thesis_access.pdf (1.89 MB)

Marcel Duchamp and New Zealand Art, 1965 – 2007 By Means of Duchamp’s Peripheral Vision: Case Studies in a History of Reception

Download (1.89 MB)
Version 2 2023-03-13, 23:59
Version 1 2021-11-15, 05:15
posted on 2023-03-13, 23:59 authored by Moore, Marcus T. G.

This thesis examines the reception to Marcel Duchamp in New Zealand from 1965 to 2007. It takes as its subject two exceptional occasions when Duchamp’s work arrived in New Zealand and the various ways in which select New Zealand artists have responded to his work since that date. In doing so, this thesis acknowledges the shifting ideologies that underpin the reception of Duchamp which are characteristic of each decade. Thus it reads Duchamp’s reception through the conceptual and ‘linguistic turn’ in post-formalist practices in the late 1960s and 1970s; the neo-avantgarde strategies of the late 1970s and 1980s; a third-wave response to the readymade in the 1990s − which leads to an expanded notion of art as installation practice in the mid- to late 1990s. Finally, it offers a take on the readymade paradigm after post-modernism, as seen in a return to artisanal craft.

This historical account of artistic practice in New Zealand is woven around two remarkable events that entailed Duchamp’s works actually coming to New Zealand, which I reconstruct for the first time. These are: Marcel Duchamp 78 Works: The Mary Sisler Collection (1904–1963), the exhibition that toured Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch in 1967; and the bequest of Judge Julius Isaacs and Betty Isaacs to the National Art Gallery in 1982 which included three works by Duchamp. The first took place in the 1960s during the first wave of exhibitions that brought Duchamp to a global audience. Here I argue that, rather than a belated response, this was contemporaneous with other events, proving that New Zealand was an active participant in the initial global reception of Duchamp. The second concerns the process by which Duchamp’s works entered a public collection. Here, I offer an account that reveals the uniqueness of Duchamp’s gifting of artworks to friends, and argues for the special importance of this gift, given the scarcity of Duchamp’s work, due to his limited output.

This thesis also reads Duchamp through the lens provided by New Zealand’s situation on the periphery. Thus it offers an analysis of Duchamp’s life and work that, while acknowledging his centrality in twentieth-century art, takes from his example those components of his practice deemed relevant to the situation of art and artists here in New Zealand. By this means I locate those elements of Duchamp’s life story, his work and legacy that tell us something new about how to diffuse the power of the centre. Drawing on the consequences of the processes of decentralisation that have reshaped the landscape of global culture, this account reveals new relationships between margin and centre that provide new ways to connect Duchamp with subsequent generations of New Zealand artists. The aim here is to defy the assumed separation of New Zealand from international trends, rethink our subservient ties to England, to offer a new version of a local art history that knits our artists into a global mainstream without rendering them beholden to a master narrative that derives from elsewhere.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Art History

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Art History, Classics and Religious Studies


Barton, Christina; Spiteri, Raymond