Collection 1880s–1940s

Marcel Duchamp. 3 Standard Stoppages. Paris 1913-14 547

Wood box 11 1/8 x 50 7/8 x 9" (28.2 x 129.2 x 22.7 cm), with three threads 39 3/8" (100 cm), glued to three painted canvas strips 5 1/4 x 47 1/4" (13.3 x 120 cm), each mounted on a glass panel 7 1/4 x 49 3/8 x 1/4" (18.4 x 125.4 x 0.6 cm), three wood slats 2 1/2 x 43 x 1/8" (6.2 x 109.2 x 0.2 cm), shaped along one edge to match the curves of the threads. Katherine S. Dreier Bequest. © 2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris / Estate of Marcel Duchamp

Curator, Ann Temkin: Three Standard Stoppages are three lines that Duchamp made by holding a thread above the ground, and dropping that thread to the floor. The thread was a meter long, but of course, instead of falling on a perfectly straight line that would then be a meter-long line, it ripples a little. You could try the experiment yourself.

Duchamp decided, why not use that readymade standard of measurement achieved by dropping a thread to the floor as a new authority? What's inherently better about a straight meter?

So what matters here is the role of chance. And Duchamp, in a way, is opposing the fortuitousness of chance to the boredom of the received idea of a standard, measured length. And he's saying to the viewer, "Look at the possibilities."

16 / 39