Melting Clocks or Melting Cocks? Our esteemed arts columnist Lady Sasha explores the masturbatory legacy of Salvador Dali

Is art instant, consensual rape? Ideally, yes – who wouldn’t want their minds forcibly violated by genius? Mere days ago, drenched by poxy London rain and freezing, razor-sharp winds, I sought sanctuary, like a medieval pervert ostracised by transphobic crowds, in the balmy galleries of Piccadilly’s Royal Academy.

The attraction? A random-chance glimpse of an RA Dali/Duchamp poster, closing that exact afternoon. Could I resist relishing two world-class deviants in all their depraved excellence? Impossible – Dali, alone, ticks multiple, sexual sociopath boxes, and – if he’d been forced to wear our 1980s, gay hanky code – would’ve proudly flaunted yellow, brown and red, his adoration of piss, digital penetration and the gorgeously souffléd beauties of liquidised shit!

A must-see, obviously, and perhaps the best spitroast mindfuck available in town. Sure, I had reservations about Duchamp – at best, a dreary cunt who, unforgivably, legitimised crushingly lame conceptual ‘art’, the fanatical religion of the flip, profoundly unhip trust fund dossers swamping Shoreditch – but still, any artist with a secret alter ego is never totally contemptible! 

And, let me give a brief, breathlessly Catholic confession here – I owe Marcel Duchamp my complete, literary life! Howcum? Because he named his (extremely ugly) lady self Rose Selavy, who I consider my direct, conceptual ancestor and surnamed myself after, as isn’t every transperson living a continual work of art in progress? And, credit where it’s undeniably due – one strand of Duchamp’s crucially important legacy, that calling anything art if one is a practising artist automatically makes it so – directly validates the performance-art brilliance of gender fluid messiah, Travis Alabanza.


So, how could I possibly resist the allure of Dali’s still shocking, scattergun perversions, and Duchamp’s electrifyingly demure, inner androgyne? At the very least, I’d be ravished by the signature trainwreck improbabilities of surrealism, and perhaps – if lucky – a pathological, gorgeously bloody and oddly soothing marriage of a penis and barbed wire.

Psychologically – to me at least – the prospect was way more addictive than even the cosiest, lunch-time diversions of impromptu crack and absinthe cocktails. But then Dali- arguably far more than Duchamp – has always exerted a morbid fascination, so it’s no wonder that Evening Standard art critic Brian Sewell gleefully disrobed and wanked for Dali’s pleasure when requested at the artist’s villa. Naturally – in keeping with his public persona of blasé aplomb – Sewell later recounted the anecdote with the most pedestrian indifference;”So many people had seen me wank it would have been prissy to say no”.

Indeed, and one of Dali’s most notorious works is titled The Great Masturbator, but – quite wisely in the circumstances – I chose not to indulge while stalking the exhibits in precarious, Louboutin stilettos, hardly the ideal footwear for swift exits. Was I outraged, appalled or enthralled by the works on view? Sometimes, yes – besides the male urinal he so insolently exhibited as his latest creation to a shell-shocked, Manhattan art establishment in 1917, Duchamp’s most troublingly resonant image is a three-dimensional, possibly butchered, female corpse glimpsed through a keyhole, echoing the Chapman Brother’s present-day atrocity chic.

There’s also his fabulously irreverent desecration of the Mona Lisa, complete with scribbled ‘tache and beard, but otherwise, one’s simply numbed by sludge-brown, pseudo-Cubist tedium and conceptualist exercises where the label, invariably, fascinates more than the exhibits themselves.

So, mercifully, it’s Dali that captivates, in all his sexually diseased glory. Painterly genitals inflate like rotting animal corpses, and impossibly twisted cocks do a triple-take as stunningly baroque turds and awesomely unfeasible – and inhumanly painful – vibrators.

In terms of appropriate, artistic metaphors then, Dali’s universe is pure wank, a continuum of thick, sticky and malleable frenzy contorted into shapes that make the most crusty, spunk-soaked sock seem unexceptional. Sadly, Duchamp’s best metaphor is quick, unmemorable and transient pissing – indisputably, he’s the quintessential piss artist, more famous for audacity than content. Still, why choose? Like all the finest, gay-friendly artists, Dali and Duchamp profoundly multiply the point of living!

For full listings of this year’s exhibitions at the Royal Academy, head to