Duchamp's bicycle wheel back on the street

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In 1913, Marcel Duchamp labeled everyday objects as art. Those "readymades" are now in museums. Now, artist Ji Lee has taken a classic Duchamp readymade and put it back into the everyday context of the street. Duchamp Reloaded


  1. I believe the point Duchamp was making with his readymades was that the art world would accept anything as art, as long as a famous name was attached to it. He succeeded heroically.

  2. This project misses Duchamps’s point entirely. If you want to see “readymades in an everyday context,” go to a hardware store and look at the shovels, not at someone’s art project.

  3. @1 Yeah I always kinda felt like Duchamp was simultaneously laughing hysterically and crying for the death of art, every time they put one of his readymade pieces in a gallery…

    but I’d still rather look at Duchamp’s urinal over any of Piet Mondrian’s drawer-liner patterns any day of the week…

  4. David, I think you may miss some of Duchamp’s double irony — there’s some now widespread analysis that his readymades were actually custom created works of art that he said were mass-produced, and left the discovery to the viewer. I saw Fountain a year or so after reading an article about that possibility, and if you look carefully, Monsieur R Mutt’s urinal looks just like a urinal, but I’m not sure it could actually have been used. It would be very Duchamp to have done that.

    My roommate in college had a stool with a bicycle wheel that he had in his room. He was a Duchamps fan from a young age.

    And on visiting MoMA in college, one of my friends went over to the Duchamps and gave it a spin. It begged for it! The guard started and we quickly walked away.

  5. Lame.

    Also, everybody knows you need to put the lock through the wheel, lest it be taken.

    To make this a real NYC street readymade, a bike thief needs to come along and snab the wheel.

  6. @ Anonymous #2:

    This is just adding another layer of complexity (and absurdity) to Duchamp’s brilliant tongue-in-cheek commentary about what defines “art.” The very fact that you assume this artist missed Duchamp’s “intent” proves that the piece has a valid place in that ongoing debate.

  7. Yup. Anyone thinking any art is stupid just proves that it succeeds in being provocative. Cus after all, what is art but an infinite regression of annoyance, amirite?


  8. Anonymous @7, yes, it is. (And annoyingly, their closing-sale prices are higher than their normal sale prices were back before they were closing.)

  9. Moriarty has an excellent point. “Provocative art” and “kinda stupid” are hardly mutually exclusive terms.

  10. And hasn’t this Forum concluded that only poor
    people are plagiarists?Then who is their Muse?

  11. Art is not what the rich determine it is, and rich or poor is not even an intellectual debate. Art is what ever someone believes, in their eyes, it is. Art is by, and for, the people, an expression of personal taste and emotion, not for others to say whether it is or isn’t art… come on peoples…

  12. I think he stole the idea from the Swedish dude that walked up to one of the “ready mades” of a urinal in a museum and returned it back to its orignal purpose.

  13. Hmmm… I don’t think it misses the “point” at all. The readymades are no longer everyday items. The “point” is archaic, and all this art seems to be doing is drawing attention to the process by which a revolutionary concept becomes taxidermied by history. Besides, the idea behind the urinal was to test whether the art world really meant anything when it said anything, to make them put their money where their mouths were.

    As for stupid, well I think most paintings are stupid, especially ones with people in them… but peole go on painting them. YMMV I guess.

  14. I nearly got kicked out of a museum once for blowing on a Calder mobile. I mean come on. It’s called a “mobile”.

  15. #4 – Glenn Fleishman, callin’ you out!

    Just because your roommate was a fan from a young age, he had a bike wheel on a stool in college and you gave the wheel a spin in MoMA doesn’t make you an expert. Do your research.

    The original “Fountain” was lost, so what you were seeing was a “replica”. Also, the urinal looks like it could not have been used because Duchamp turned it on its side, much like he did to most of the art world.

    David Pescovitz – If artist Ji Lee was putting “a classic Duchamp readymade…back into the everyday context of the street”, wouldn’t the bar stool be at a bar and the wheel be on a bike?

    #5 is right, you put your chain through the frame AND the wheel.

  16. I believe the point Duchamp was making with his readymades was that the art world would accept anything as art, as long as a famous name was attached to it. He succeeded heroically.

    Well, then, Boing Boing is just repeating the original art-world error by continuing to publicize these objects as if they are actually art.

    If there is any artistic merit to these things, the credit belongs to the objects’ designers, not to this Doo Champ guy. Glorifying Doo Champ is either willfully indulging plagiarism or else missing the point entirely.

  17. the piece has a valid place in that ongoing debate

    It is indisputable that every possible “point” has already been made in the decades-long “debate,” which cannot possibly be “ongoing” now in any meaningful sense of the word. Let it go already. This may or may not have been clever 40 or 50 years ago. Talking about it today is definitely not.

  18. Art is what ever someone believes, in their eyes, it is.

    Well then why does “someone believe” it is “art”? Because it conforms to some idea of what “art” is in their heads. So what is that idea? That idea is someone’s actual definition of art.

    You have to go get that idea, and take it out, and articulate it, and look at it, if you want to talk about what art is. Otherwise you’re just talking self-referential nonsense.

  19. #1 – You seem to be missing the point of both Dada and Duchamp’s philosophy. As odd as it may seem today, that was the opposite of what Duchamp was trying to prove. The idea that, “People value this arte povera, so I’m going to show how stupid the art world is by playing a joke” makes the implicit statement that some artists are to be taken more seriously than others. This enforces elitism and conservatism in art, which is exactly what Duchamp was commenting on. Just look at Duchamp’s “Mona Lisa.” Dada, particularly New York Dada, was about rejecting the conservative values of the art world and making fun of those people that took art so seriously.

    Dada was and is at times shocking and disturbing to middle class values.

    Take for instance the Fountain. Duchamp knew from the reaction that he got at the 1913 Armory Show that the art world, and especially America, was very traditional and conservative. He entered the Fountain into a unjuried art show knowing that it would be rejected. This served to vindicate his beliefs.

    It is also very crucial to remember that Duchamp does not claim that his readymades are art (Dadas often referred to their work as “not art.”); that is why he got rid of many of his originals. Duchamp believed that it was the idea that was art. The random chance that led to the creation of the piece, that was the art. The piece means nothing. The physical Mona Lisa means nothing as art. We can copy it, we can make reproductions. That it exists in the Louvre is only important to those who care about history or antiques. As long as we know what it looks like, the effect it has on the world of art and the general viewer is the same whether it physically exists or not (Just think how many who can identify it will never go to see it in person.).

    The incredible thing isn’t that we value Duchamp so much that we keep authorized reproductions of his work in the same buildings as Picasso and Rubens; it is that Duchamp told the art world to get screwed, made fun of it, degraded it, but was so incredibly influential on so much that came after him that he cannot be denied.

    Furthermore, what is art? If you don’t think Duchamp’s piece is art, then you’re doing what Duchamp intended. He wanted people to evaluate what art is. He wanted them to question who has the right to make art. Should they have that right? Why do they seem to think they do? Why do we let them?

    Of course, this isn’t to claim that everything must be art, because no one is allowed to say otherwise. At the end of the day, the way art of today is going to be regarded centuries from now is purely academic. How many formaldehyde soaked animals will show up in the 101-level art texts of tomorrow? Then again, I am sure Duchamp would ask why Pearson gets to decide what is art.

  20. @ Anonymous #22:

    It is indisputable that every possible “point” has already been made in the decades-long “debate,” which cannot possibly be “ongoing” now in any meaningful sense of the word.

    You mean someone’s finally come up with a universally accepted definition for “art?” Hot damn! What is it???

  21. Here’s one:

    Art is whatever art collectors will pay for.

    Don’t like that definition?

    Well, the further you get away from it, the less future art historians are gonna be talking about YOU, rest assured.

  22. “assumetehposition” I’m afraid I strongly disagree, to say that of modern artists such as Hirts may be true, as most of his work seems to be an ironic statement about those who idealise him. Duchamp however was presenting objects which he had stripped of their purpose, by turning them on their side or signing them, which causes the viewer to be confronted by a series of aesthetic questions which ensue when given an object which no aesthetic qualities. Further more, Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’ was rejected from the New York Independents in 1917 so it was not the iconic piece it now is which you seem to be labeling all Duchamp’s readymades with. He was not presenting ‘anything’ to be accepted as art, but objects that had been transformed into art by the artistic act of selecting them and which had had a new thought created for them. These readymades represent an iconoclastic gesture of total rejection and a revolt against the accepted artistic cannons. Something which other movements around the same time, such a Futurism, were also interested in. Marinetti, Italian poet and creator of the Futurist manifesto said “burn the museums and drain the canals of Venice!” When placed in social historical context, all Duchamp’s readymades make much more sense and clearly illustrate that he was not just trying to shove any old item into a gallery in order to mock contemporary attitudes to art, in fact he only made 20 readymades in his life. These were art objects, which he intended to provoke the viewer to considering “what is art?”

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