Special Sub-Topic: Duchamp's "Fountain"
|"Art is like a shipwreck .. it's everyman for himself." - Marcel Duchamp
In New York, in 1917, Henri Robert Marcel Duchamp stood a plumbing fixture on its back, signed "R. Mutt" to the left side of the plumbing fixture, paid a six dollar fee and submitted the plumbing fixture for inclusion in the first exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists under the title "Fountain". Mr. Duchamp was a founding member of the society. Although there is controversy over exactly how the entry was received, which of the following has been verified as factual?|
"Fountain" did not appear in the catalogue of exhibited works.. Some maintain that the first exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists did not include "Fountain", others that Fountain was "exhibited" behind a curtain, out of public view. There is no disagreement over "Fountain" being left out of the exhibit's catalogue. Duchamp resigned from the Society of Independent Artists because of the treatment given to "Fountain". The photographer Alfred Stieglitz displayed "Fountain" in his 291 Gallery and took a famous photograph of the art object.
Marcel Duchamp began painting in Paris where his early works utilized both Fauvist and Post Impressionist techniques. Turning for a time to cubism, Duchamp ultimately became bored and critical of the cubist style. According to the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art website, organizers of a Paris exhibition rejected Duchamp's cubist "Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2" for "both its title and the artist's mechanistic, dehumanizing rendering of the female nude." Other sources indicate that there was already political friction between Duchamp and other cubists and that the rendering of the painting was seen as critical of the Cubist movement.
|"Whether Mr. Mutt with his own hands made the fountain or not has no importance. He chose it. He took an ordinary article of life, placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under a new title and point of view -- he created a new thought for the object." - Marcel Duchamp
Marcel Duchamp himself indicated that he chose to sign his sculpture "Fountain" with the name "Mutt" because J. L. Mott Ironworks manufactured "Fountain". Oddly, the artist's own explanation for choosing the name is widely disbelieved. What reasons have been given for disbelieving the "Mott" account? |
All of these (Duchamp also claimed to have picked the name "Mutt" because of the "Mutt and Jeff" comic strip., Experts believe that J. L. Mott Ironworks did not, in fact, manufacture the fixture., Duchamp was well known for his glib irony.). Duchamp gained prominence among New York artists after his "Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2" was displayed at New York's first exhibition of modern art, the Armory Show of 1913. "Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2" was a lightning rod for publicity as well as criticism. Duchamp joined a group of Dadaists in New York and became influential among avant-garde artists.
|"Society takes what it wants." - Marcel Duchamp
To which of the following schools of art could "Fountain" be most properly held to belong?|
Dadaist. Dadaism began with a group of artists and writers who founded the Caberet Voltaire in Zurich during World War I. The movement spread to both Paris and New York. Many Dadaists believed that all of society's hierarchal structures, including those of art and literature, needed to be torn down and rebuilt. They felt that art and literature should incorporate both randomness and absurdity to accomplish this purpose. The Dadaist Tristan Tzara claimed, "Nothing is more delightful than to confuse and upset people." Marcel Duchamp seemed to share Tzara's sentiment.
|"The individual, man as a man, man as a brain, if you like, interests me more than what he makes, because I've noticed that most artists only repeat themselves." -- Marcel Duchamp
Marcel Duchamp estimated that he "made" more than 35 "readymades" - art pieces constructed from everyday objects. What was Duchamp's policy about exhibiting these items?|
He held his "readymades" to be largely private and seldom displayed them outside his private circle.. In 1913, Duchamp attached a bicycle wheel to a kitchen stool to create his first "readymade". In a 1961 article on his creations entitled ""Apropos of 'Readymades'", Duchamp says, "I realized very soon the danger of repeating indiscriminately this form of expression and decided to limit the production of 'Readymades' to a small number yearly. I was aware at that time, that for the spectator even more for the artist, art is a habit forming drug and I wanted to protect my 'Readymades' against such a contamination." Duchamp seldom displayed these creations publicly and was uncharacteristically modest with regard to their importance.
|"But the onlooker has the last word, and it is always posterity that makes the masterpiece." - Marcel Duchamp
In 2004, the sponsors of Britain's most prestigious art award, the Turner prize, surveyed five hundred artists, curators, critics and art dealers regarding works of modern art. Duchamp's "Fountain" was accorded which of the following honors?|
Most influential work of modern art. Some would see irony in the award given to Marcel Duchamp. Duchamp crusaded against an elitist, exclusivist sentiment in the art world of his day. Now, a new orthodoxy prizes Duchamp's work and excludes those who work in the traditional paint medium.
Touted by the Tate museum as "Britain's most prestigious art award", the Turner prize has been awarded since 1984. A 1999 nomination for the prize went to Tracey Emin's "My Bed", which was, in fact, an unmade bed. In that year a group of artists criticized the prize saying, it "should be re-named The Duchamp Award for the destruction of artistic integrity". An interesting and exclusivist feature of the award is that you must be under 50 years old to be eligible. Some would say that a prestigious and influential clique within the art establishment has now decreed that "Fountain" and works similar to it are in keeping with art's new orthodoxy. A simple painting or a work by a person over the age of 50, on the other hand, is now excluded from consideration.
The art exhibition at which Marcel Duchamp attempted to show "Fountain" in 1913 was an effort ostensibly opposed to the established orthodoxy of the day. The Society of Independent Artists decided that there would be no jury and no prizes and that the art would be displayed in a random fashion. In 1913, Duchamp's "Fountain" was too vulgar and heretical for even this venue. As Duchamp perhaps intended, his submission of "Fountain" exposed the limited vision and hypocrisy of the avowedly avant-garde Society of Independent Artists. I doubt that Marcel Duchamp would have submitted one of his works to the self-proclaimed experts who judge the Turner prize; but had he done so, I think he might have submitted a simple, realistic portrait in oil.
|"Art is a habit-forming drug. That's all it is..." - Marcel Duchamp
In 2004, the sponsors of the Turner prize conducted the survey that resulted in Marcel Duchamp's "Fountain" receiving a prestigious award. Which of the following products does this sponsoring company manufacture?|
Gin. The Turner prize has had a succession of sponsors since 1984. The prize money was increased to 40,000 pounds in 2004 when Gordon's assumed sponsorship. Gordon's designed special packaging for their gin to publicize their support for the prize.
|"I don't believe in art. I believe in artists." - Marcel Duchamp
Five hundred artists, curators, critics and art dealers surveyed regarding works of modern art awarded the prize for modern art to Marcel Duchamp's "Fountain" - placing it front of such highly regarded masterpieces as Picasso's "Guernica" and Matisse's "The Red Studio". Which group's vote most strongly supported Duchamp's work?|
Artists. That artists themselves overwhelmingly supported the choice of Duchamp's "Fountain" as most influential certainly lends credence to the claim that it is influential (at least with the group of artists chosen to participate in the survey.) Yet, despite Duchamp's proclamation of his belief in artists, Duchamp championed a spirit of broad inclusiveness that seems to be as much lacking in Britain's art establishment today as it was in the art establishments of Paris and New York in the early 20th century. There is conflict between "contemporary" or "post modern" artists such as Tracey Emin and those supportive of an art that emphasizes conventional artistic proficiency. When Emin criticized one such artist as being "stuck, stuck, stuck", her name was embraced. The group sympathetic to more traditional forms now call themselves "Stuckists".
|"Art has absolutely no existence as veracity, as truth. People speak of it with great, religious reverence, but I don't see why it is to be so much revered. I'm afraid I'm an agnostic when it comes to art. I don't believe in it with all the mystical trimmings." - Marcel Duchamp
An analysis of twenty art books produced a list of the 100 Most Important Art Works of the Twentieth Century. Where did "Fountain" appear on that list?|
In the top twenty but not the top 10. Mike White took an interesting approach to determining artistic importance. He surveyed prominent art history books, counting the mentions for each work of art. Using this method, Picasso's "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" ranked highest. "Fountain" ranked 11th, still a highly significant placing for a bathroom fixture signed with a contrived name.
|"The artist himself does not count, because there is no actual existence for the work of art." - Marcel Duchamp
Where is the original "Fountain" being displayed?|
Nowhere, it has been lost.. The whereabouts of "Fountain" is unknown, and only copies are now on display. There are varying accounts of what happened to the original. One story relates that personnel at the 1917 exhibition dropped "Fountain" and broke it. In another account, Marcel Duchamp's sister lost it. Duchamp eventually "authorized" eight copies of "Fountain". In 1999 one of these copies sold at auction for $ 1.76 million dollars!
|"I am interested in ideas, not merely in visual products." - Marcel Duchamp
In what location would one expect to find a plumbing fixture of the same type as "Fountain"?|
A men's public restroom. Marcel Duchamp's "Fountain" continues to be a touchstone of artistic controversy. The Turner prize's selection of "Fountain" as the most influential modern work of art resulted in spirited comments on the BBC website. Many included such words as "ludicrous", "travesty", "disgrace", "degradation", "pretentious" and "idiots". Celine Hagbard of the UK felt that Duchamp would have been "horrified" had he witnessed the spectacle that surrounded his "readymade". Ms. Hagbard observed, "[Fountain is] the most misunderstood piece of art ever presented to the public; everyone 'gets it', but nobody understands."
To see the 1917 photograph of the original "Fountain" go to "http://arthist.binghamton.edu/duchamp/fountain.html"
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