More about Please Touch
Prière de toucher (Please Touch) was Marcel Duchamp’s way of low-key flaunting his girlfriend and showing the world how far his love went.
And we’re still talking about it well into the 21st century, so I’d say he did a good job. Before we get started, I’d just like to say that yes, that is an artificial boob. And no, I can’t look away either. But that’s okay. Something tells me that Duchamp would be glad that people were still gawking at this fake breast more than sixty years after its creation.
But now that we’ve come to terms with the what, let’s get into the how and the why. Duchamp, a famous French painter and grade A troll, designed this breast for the 1947 International Surrealist exhibition that he co-curated with André Breton. This man, with some help from surrealist artist Enrico Donati, hand-colored 999 foam breasts that they then attached to the backs of the deluxe edition of the show catalogue.
It doesn’t stop there. Also on the back cover of the catalogue reads Prière de toucher, which means ‘Please Touch’ in English (and is the title of the piece). It’s weird. It’s uncomfortable. And it’s impossible to not have a strong reaction to it. Like it or not, get it or not, it’s art in the purest form.
But wait, there’s still more. The breast that we all can’t stop looking at (or touching if we’re following the suggestion), is actually a cast of Duchamp's lover and fellow artist Maria Martins' actual bosom. Talk about love.
Though created in a seemingly lighthearted and carefree way, Prière de Toucher signifies Duchamp’s overlap with surrealist themes, specifically those focused on eroticism and obsession. Breasts are undeniably erotic, and the manufacturing of almost a thousand fake breasts, the care it took to hand paint them, and the fact that it was all based on the real bosom of Duchamp’s lover speaks to his obsession.
I bet you didn’t think this boob was going to be this deep. But that’s the power of art.
- The Art Story. Marcel Duchamp Artworks. Accessed May 17, 2021. https://www.theartstory.org/artist/duchamp-marcel/artworks/#nav
- Girst, Thomas. “Marcel Duchamp: a riotous A-Z of his secret life.” The Guardian. April 7, 2014. https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/apr/07/marcel-duchamp-art…
- Battaglia, Andy. “Marcel Duchamp’s 18 Most Puzzling Artworks, From Hypnotic Bicycle Wheels to Visions of Robotic Sex.” Art News. June 2, 2021. https://www.artnews.com/feature/marcel-duchamp-puzzling-art-1202688635/