A picture of a ship

This is the SS Flandre, launched on July 23, 1952.

It is no longer a ship. The SS Flandre caught fire and was destroyed on March 24,1994 and then became scrap metal.

It is on a postcard – a postcard with a photograph of the ship. So I would say it is a ship, a photograph of a ship, and a postcard of a ship all at once. Plus it is somehow on your screen.

A postcard of the ship

Anyway, when the ship sailed from NYC to Le Havre in November 1954, the French-American artist Marcel Duchamp was on board with his wife Teeny Duchamp, en route to Paris. He sent the postcard.

He wrote this on the postcard:

In English it says:

Nov. 13, 54

Dear Miriam and Gabo:

7 days of boat and we arrive tomorrow at Le Havre.


c/o H.P. Roché

99 Boulevard Arago

Paris 14

If you want anything from Paris.

To return January.


Marcel       Teeny

It was sent to Naum Gabo, a sculptor and his wife Miriam. (« The essence of Gabo’s art was the exploration of space, which he believed could be done without having to depict mass. »)

He was a Russian Jew who lived in Paris and then England and escaped on a ship to the US in 1946. Duchamp had made it out of France by ship in 1941.

It really shows what a nice guy Duchamp was, to offer to bring something back from Paris when he returns.

He asks the Gabos to let him know via H.P. Roché their Paris shopping list.

Roché was a novelist, diplomat, journalist, etc. He wrote Jules and Jim, which Francois Truffaut found in a secondhand bookstore and made into a movie and he introduced Gertrude Stein to Picasso.

Duchamp is considered the father of conceptual art.  His breakthrough was the readymades, everyday objects that he would elevate to art just by adding his signature.  He designated things like a bicycle wheel (1913), a comb (1916), a bottle rack (1914), a shovel (1915), and most famously a urinal (which he signed R. Mutt, 1917).

I just bought the postcard from Marcel Duchamp, at an auction in Paris.  It really wasn’t very expensive, though it is hard to say what is or isn’t expensive for an old used postcard.  To me it’s worth what I paid but I paid 10 euros more than the person bidding against me.

I’m happy to have it and I popped it into a frame, printing on the matte:

Ceci est une carte postal de Marcel Duchamp.

(This is a postcard from Marcel Duchamp.)

You can only see the ship, so it looks like just a normal old postcard and I don’t know whether people believe it was written by Duchamp or if I just wrote that.  The significant part is hidden.

A couple of people read it quickly and thought it reads Ceci n’est pas une carte postale de Marcel Duchamp, like the Magritte painting:

This is not a pipe.

A long time ago I wrote and published a book, A Telegram From Marcel Duchamp, about a telegram from Marcel Duchamp.   It sold well and I got nice letters from Teeny Duchamp and John Cage and a postcard from Allen Ginsberg about when he met Duchamp.  You can get it on Amazon.

In my apartment I have over the fireplace the postcard from Marcel Duchamp and on a bookshelf the telegram from Marcel Duchamp.  I dream of a phone call from Marcel Duchamp.