Marcel Duchamp

French (Blainville-Crevon, France, 1887 - 1968, Neuilly-sur-Seine, France)


sculpture | glazed ceramic with black paint
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  • Fountain

    Marcel Duchamp, Fountain, 1917/1964; glazed ceramic with black paint, 15 in. x 19 1/4 in. x 24 5/8 in. (38.1 cm x 48.9 cm x 62.55 cm); Collection SFMOMA, Purchase through a gift of Phyllis C. Wattis; © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris / Estate of Marcel Duchamp

After moving from Paris to New York in 1915, Marcel Duchamp became a founding member of the American Society of Independent Artists, a group dedicated to advancing the ideas of new art. For its first exhibition, in April 1917, Duchamp submitted, under a fictitious name, a urinal he had purchased in the showroom of J. L. Mott Iron Works. He turned the object on its side and placed it on a pedestal, undermining its utilitarian associations. He then signed it "R. Mutt 1917" and named it Fountain. The piece inspired heated argument among the society's directors and was finally rejected an hour before the exhibition opened.

Fountain is one of a group of objects that Duchamp called "readymades," works with which he challenged traditional notions of making and exhibiting art. Anonymously defending the work in the press, Duchamp claimed he had "created a new thought for that object." He rejected the assumption that art must be linked to the craft of the hand and instead argued that a work of art should be primarily about the artist's idea — a contention that became one of the most far-reaching principles of twentieth-century art, influencing artists as diverse as Robert Rauschenberg, Bruce Nauman, and Cindy Sherman. The original Fountain disappeared shortly after its creation, but in 1938 Duchamp began issuing subsequent versions of the piece, reinforcing his fundamental questioning of originality and authenticity. This is the fourth full-scale version, fabricated in 1964.

15 in. x 19 1/4 in. x 24 5/8 in. (38.1 cm x 48.9 cm x 62.55 cm)
Acquired 1998
Collection SFMOMA
Purchase through a gift of Phyllis C. Wattis
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris / Estate of Marcel Duchamp


Dada, urinals, ready-mades

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