It’s Monday, new week, new day, new beginnings. So, why not to start with a brief History of Arts class which, maybe, will help you to better understand and accept the Contemporary art. Today I propose you to think about the real value of "a concept", the way we use this word every day, and mostly to express our own ideas.
In 1917, a simple porcelain urinal, titled Fountain, was proposed for the first exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists in New York, by the French-American artist, Marcel Duchamp. Somebody sais that the artist just bought it on the Fifth Avenue, NY, others consider that it was a gift from one of his friends, whatever. Marcel Duchamp was a Cubism and Dada artist, and one of the first to argue the values of an art by inventing the term «ready-made», to describe everyday, mass-produced objects. Artists just had to choose an object and present it artistically (title, date, frame/stand etc). All Duchamp’s works presented between 1913 and 1921 normally carry this name.
Fountain was signed «R. Mutt 1917» what was not by an accident: R indicated Richard, which was French jargon for ‘moneybags’, rich people, and Mutt meant JL Mott Ironworks, the company that produced the urinal. The masterpiece finally was not presented at the exhibition but it was photographed at Alfred Stieglitz's studio and published in The Blind Man. It was too radical and provocative! Duchamp left the Society. To support him, the founder of The Blind Man, Beatrice Wood said:
"The only works of art America has given
are her plumbing and her bridges".
The main Duchamp’s idea was to claim that "art became art if an artist said it was". So, we always have to pay attention to the author of a piece in front of us, because the way this piece exists is the result of the intellectual work, which always has been unique. My teacher of the Theory of Arts once said, that with an artwork an artist consolidates with the past situation, he manages it. Every artist has some kind of problem to deal with, finally the masterpiece becomes a solution.
This Fountain was one of the first roots of the Conceptual art (1960-70s), which later we will learn with works of Yves Klein, Robert Rauschenberg, Joseph Beuys, Marina Abramović and others. Marcel Duchamp for forever «broke the traditional connection between the artist’s work and merit for the work». Since that artists have no longer needed to emulate, as it had been in the classical art school. If before the nature used to be a source of imitation, now the whole world, be it natural or manmade, became a source of inspiration. Peer into the world around you and you will see even more amazing and beautiful thing. Thank you!
P.S.: Being in Paris do not lose a chance to see the Fountain of
Marcel Duchamp at the national museum of modern arts
Centre Georges Pompidou.
Yves Klein, «Grande Anthropophagie bleue, Hommage à Tennessee Williams (ANT 76)», 1960, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France
Robert Rauschenberg, «Retroactive I», 1963, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, New York, USA
Joseph Beuys, «Infiltration for Piano», 1966, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France