Brian O’Doherty (aka Patrick Ireland) is best known as a sculptor, conceptualist and critic; he was originally trained as a doctor. On 4 April 1966 O’Doherty had dinner with Marcel Duchamp and asked whether he could make a portrait of the great artist by recording Duchamp’s heart with an electrocardiogram. He took three separate readings—readymades from the heart. Two and a half years later, Duchamp died from heart failure at the age of 81.
O’Doherty’s original 16-part Portrait of Marcel Duchamp was produced in 1966/67. The new work offers a facsimile of part of the original work, made with part of the data, collected from part of the man being portrayed. As such it echoes Duchamp’s own preoccupation with facsimiles and false documents, most obviously the 1934 Green Box collection of notes for The Large Glass. Both offer things that have the look of actual artifacts, but are in truth reproductions, dislocated from their origins promising—and failing—to deliver the life of the past.