Intense Café
Pierre Montale
Tour Carpe Diem
Architects: Kevin Smith, Meghan McDermott
Designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects
La Défense, Paris


Although painters Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque created Cubism in the 20th century’s first decade, it is arguably Marcel Duchamp, with “Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2” (1912), who created the style’s most famous painting. Einstein would only publish his spacetime theories in 1915; Duchamp  foreshadowed them by making a static form (painted objects, after all, don’t actually move) appear to move through time. Painting fluctuated like the universe.

Two 2014 works in two other mediums show that Cubism is very much alive and well. The architects Kevin Smith and Meghan McDermott designed a skyscraper that looks as if Duchamp had collaborated with them—“Tower Descending a Staircase”; the building appears to move, its surfaces shifting and its blue glass disappearing and reappearing against the sky. (The architects also placed it on top of a massive staircase.) And the scent artist Pierre Montale created “Intense Café.” More than evolving progressively with time, the work seems to shift, forward and back. The coffee theme is as clear as the tower, yet like that work the coffee comes in and out of focus. We see a side of it. Then another. Duchamp would be proud.

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