Marcel Duchamp

Marcel Duchamp. Bicycle Wheel. New York, 1951 (third version, after lost original of 1913)

Marcel Duchamp was a pioneer of Dada, a movement that questioned long-held assumptions about what art should be, and how it should be made. In the years immediately preceding World War I, Duchamp found success as a painter in Paris. But he soon gave up painting almost entirely, explaining, “I was interested in ideas—not merely in visual products.”

Seeking an alternative to representing objects in paint, Duchamp began presenting objects themselves as art. He selected mass-produced, commercially available, often utilitarian objects, designating them as art and giving them titles. “Readymades,” as he called them, disrupted centuries of thinking about the artist’s role as a skilled creator of original handmade objects. Instead, Duchamp argued, “An ordinary object [could be] elevated to the dignity of a work of art by the mere choice of an artist.”

The readymade also defied the notion that art must be beautiful. Duchamp claimed to have chosen everyday objects “based on a reaction of visual indifference, with at the same time a total absence of good or bad taste.”In doing so, Duchamp paved the way for Conceptual art—work that was “in the service of the mind,” as opposed to a purely “retinal” art, intended only to please the eye.

My thoughts:

I feel that Duchamp can link in really well with Minimalism as his idea of “art” is so simplistic by presenting objects in their original, exact form. I think that this is a really interesting way of questioning art, but also how it can make us as viewers look at something so everyday as something completely different. Another example of Duchamp’s work is his “Fountain” instillation, which consisted of him simply presenting a urinal, which was at first rejected as being art and is still considered to be a controversial piece. I find it quite fascinating that something as simple as a urinal can provoke so much thought, and feel as though even if it is disregarded as art for its form, there is something extremely artistic about the reaction and debate it leads to.

Marcel Duchamp

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