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Four "Readymades" Of Marcel Duchamp You Should Know

20th century

Four "Readymades" Of Marcel Duchamp You Should Know

Henri-Robert-Marcel Duchamp was a French, naturalized American painter, sculptor, chess player and writer whose work is associated with Cubism, conceptual art and Dada. Duchamp was famous of weird, often sarcastic or funny pieces of art. Can a Bottle-Rack, or a Bicycle Wheel be an art? In his concept of “Readymades” yes. They were were found objects which Duchamp chose and presented as art. In 1913, Duchamp installed a Bicycle Wheel in his studio. However, the idea of Readymades did not fully develop until 1915. The idea was to question the very notion of Art, and the adoration of art, which Duchamp found “unnecessary”.

L.H.O.O.Q.

L.H.O.O.Q., Marcel Duchamp,1919, Tate Modern, London

Marcel Duchamp, L.H.O.O.Q.,1919, Tate Modern, London

In 1919, Duchamp made a parody of the Mona Lisa by adorning a cheap reproduction of the painting with a mustache and goatee. To this he added the inscription L.H.O.O.Q., a phonetic game which, when read out loud in French quickly sounds like “Elle a chaud au cul”. This can be translated as “She has a hot ass”, implying that the woman in the painting is in a state of sexual excitement and availability. It may also have been intended as a Freudian joke, referring to Leonardo da Vinci’s alleged homosexuality. Duchamp gave a “loose” translation of L.H.O.O.Q. as “there is fire down below” in a late interview with Arturo Schwarz.

The Fountain

Marcel Duchamp, Fountain, 1950, Philadelphia Museum of Art

Marcel Duchamp, Fountain, 1950, Philadelphia Museum of Art


Fountain was porcelain urinal, which was signed “R.Mutt” and titled Fountain. Submitted for the exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists, in 1917, the first annual exhibition by the Society to be staged at The Grand Central Palace in New York, Fountain was rejected by the committee, even though the rules stated that all works would be accepted from artists who paid the fee. Fountain was displayed and photographed at Alfred Stieglitz’s studio, and the photo published in The Blind Man, but the original has been lost. The work is regarded by art historians and theorists of the avant-garde. 17 replicas commissioned by Duchamp in the 1960s now exist.

The Bicycle Wheel

Marcel Duchamp Bicycle Wheel, 1963 Private Collection of Richard Hamilton, Henley-on-Thames

Marcel Duchamp, Bicycle Wheel, 1963, Private Collection of Richard Hamilton, Henley-on-Thames

Bicycle Wheel is consisting of a bicycle fork with front wheel mounted upside-down on a wooden stool. In 1913 at his Paris studio Duchamp mounted the bicycle wheel upside down onto a stool, spinning it occasionally just to watch it. Later he denied that its creation was purposeful, though it has come to be known as the first of his readymades. “I enjoyed looking at it,” he said. “Just as I enjoy looking at the flames dancing in the fireplace.”

Bottle-Rack

Marcel Duchamp, Bottle-Rack, 1914-1964, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris

Marcel Duchamp, Bottle-Rack, 1914-1964, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris


Marcel Duchamp claimed to have bought the Bottle Rack at a department store called Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville near the Paris city hall. The Bottle Rack was a typical, metal rack used for the drying of bottles, but the spiky, aggressive appearance of the piece earned it the name of Hedgehog. Unlike the earlier Bicycle Wheel (1913) or Pharmacy (1913), the Bottle Rack was not modified in any way, making it the first, “true” example of a readymade. The Bottle Rack also had an inscription scribbled on its side, much like the infamous R. Mutt of Duchamp’s Fountain (1917) piece, though the actual words remain a mystery as Duchamp had forgotten the inscription by the time it had been thrown out.

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