Duchamp, Man Ray, Picabia, Tate Modern, London

15th February 2008 at 00:00

When Marcel Duchamp presented his famous "Nude Descending a Staircase" for a Cubist exhibition in Paris, he was told to scrub out the title or withdraw the painting.

Typically, he wasted little time over his response. "I went immediately to the show and took my painting home in a taxi. It was a turning point in my life," he recalled.

An exhibition at Tate Modern in London, starting this week, looks at the urinal-touting antics of the famous controversialist, together with his pals Man Ray and Francis Picabia.

It features crowd-pleasers such as the Mona Lisa-with-tache "L.H.O.O.Q," plus lush paintings from Picabia and Man Ray's instantly recognisable black-and-white rayographs.

The show looks at how this collection of exiles and immigrants came together in New York to form the Dadaist movement and the playfully-titled Societe Anonyme, effectively the first museum for modern art.

Acolytes hailed their flashy, jokey style as the way forward for art. But Man Ray warned admirers not to take his work so seriously. "There is no progress in art, any more than there is progress in making love," he once said. "There are simply different ways of doing it."

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