Collection 1880s–1940s

Marcel Duchamp. Bicycle Wheel. New York, 1951 (third version, after lost original of 1913) 511

Metal wheel mounted on painted wood stool, 51 x 25 x 16 1/2" (129.5 x 63.5 x 41.9 cm). The Sidney and Harriet Janis Collection. © 2023 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris / Estate of Marcel Duchamp

Artist, Marcel Duchamp (archival): The first one was in 1913. It was a bicycle wheel.

Curator, Ann Temkin: This is Duchamp himself talking about Bicycle Wheel in 1959 on the BBC.

Interviewer, George Hamilton (archival): Do you think anybody else could make one?

Marcel Duchamp (archival): Yes, everybody can! Every century there is a new definition of art. So if we accept trying not to define art then the readymade comes in as a sort of irony, because here it is, a thing that I call art.

Ann Temkin: In other words: art is what an artist says it is. Even a bicycle wheel.

Marcel Duchamp: I didn't even make it it was a form of denying the possibility of defining art. In other words, the ideas are more important than the actual visual realization.

Ann Temkin: The whole idea of beauty as the goal, or simple enjoyment as the goal of art, he wanted to replace with this sense of art as something that provokes you, makes you think, questions your traditional assumptions.

The insistence Duchamp had on stating on that what was important about an artist was his or her idea. That the artist could have an idea, and that that idea could be a breakthrough, and could be expressed visually in a thing, but that thing didn't need to be something he or she makes all by him or herself.

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