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Monday, July 20, 2020

Marcel Duchamp and readymades


Photo source: Wikimedia Commons, Alfred Stieglitz


Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) was a French-American artist best known for his contributions to conceptual art and his readymade sculptures. Artist Jasper Johns said,


"Marcel Duchamp, one of this century's pioneers, moved his work through the retinal boundaries which had been established with Impressionism into a field where language, thought and vision act upon one another. There it changed from through a complex interplay of new mental and physical materials, heralding many of the technical, mental and visual details to be found in more recent art." (Quoted in Artforum 7, 1968)


The rest of this post is some quotes from Duchamp.




"In 1913 I had the happy idea to fasten a bicycle wheel to a kitchen stool and watch it turn... In New York in 1915 I bought at a hardware store a snow shovel on which I wrote 'In advance of the broken arm'. It was around that time that the word 'Readmade' came to mind to designate this form of manifestation." (Apropos of Readymades, 1961)


"A point which I want very much to establish is that the choice of the 'Readymade' was never dictated by aesthetic delectation. This choice was based on a reaction of visual indifference with at the same time a total absence of good or bad taste... in fact a complete anesthesia. One important characteristic was the short sentence which I occasionally inscribed on the 'readymade'." (Apropos of Readymades, 1961)




"I was interested in ideas, not memerly visual products. I wanted to put painting once again at the service of the mind." (


"In the creative act, the artist goes from intention to realization through a chain of totally subjective reactions. Their struggle towards the realization is a series of efforts, pains, satifactions, refusals, decisions, which also cannot be fully self-conscious, at least on the aesthetic plane." (The Creative Act, 1957)


"Art has the lovely habit of ruining all artistic theories." (


"I believe that the artist doesn't know what he does. I attach even more importance to the spectator than to the artist." (




"As soon as we start putting our thoughts into words and sentences everything gets distorted, language is just no damn good - I use it because I have to, but I don't put any trust in it. We never understand each other." (