Among the largest and oldest art museums in the US, the Philadelphia Museum of Art is a pilgrimage site for modern and contemporary art professionals and enthusiasts from all over the world, due in part to its extensive holdings of the work of Marcel Duchamp, as well as its Constantin Brancusi sculptures. Through innovative exhibitions and programs, the museum has stayed true to its roots as a teaching institution and to the belief that the arts can positively transform society.
A further study of one of the Philadelphia Museum of Art's (PMA) greatest artistic assets—its extensive collection of works by Marcel Duchamp—Dancing around the Bride traced the seminal artist's influence on the dance, music, and visual artwork of four equally protean figures: composer John Cage, choreographer Merce Cunningham, and visual artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg. What made this exhibition timely was an increasing appetite among museums to show in their galleries that which had previously been inadmissible, namely the time-based practices of performance, in all its many guises. Curators Carlos Basualdo and Erica Battle teased out specific historical encounters and explicit influences amongst these five figures, and presented them in an environment designed and animated by French artist Philippe Parreno. The design included artworks, stage sets, prerecorded music, and videos, as well as live performances of both music and dance—the latter two coordinated with the John Cage Trust and the Merce Cunningham Trust. In addition to publishing a 448-page reader that included interviews, magazine articles, and book excerpts by leading scholars, critics, and the artists themselves, the PMA also co-hosted a symposium on this exhibition with the art history department at the University of Pennsylvania.