Visual Descriptions

Marcel Duchamp. Bicycle Wheel. New York, 1951 (third version, after lost original of 1913) 61

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. © 2022 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris / Estate of Marcel Duchamp

Narrator 1: 6–1. Bicycle Wheel. Originally made in 1913, but subsequently lost. By the French artist Marcel Duchamp, 1887–1968. This replica was made by Duchamp in 1951. Overall dimensions: fifty–one inches high by twenty–six by seventeen inches in width. 128 x 64 x 42 cm. It is displayed on pedestal about 6 inches height and about 5 feet square. You can walk all the way around it.

Narrator 2: The title of this work says it all: it’s a bicycle wheel. Not a sculpture of a bicycle wheel: a real bicycle wheel, mounted on a four–legged wooden stool. The wheel remains attached to the black metal front forks of the bicycle. They’ve been turned upside down, so that the forks extend through a hole in the center of the stool’s seat, and protrude about a foot beneath. It’s been done in such a way that the wheel is able to turn – so it’s potentially a moving sculpture.

The wheel itself is of the old–fashioned kind: nothing fancy, no colorful paintwork, no rubber tire even. Just thin, silver metal spokes running from the silver rim of the wheel to the hub. There are about 36 spokes in total. The stool is also plain and simple—coated with cream–colored paint, which is rather chipped. Yet these two simple objects were a bomb thrown at the conventional art world. Duchamp exploded the idea that a work of art has to be the unique creation of the artist’s hand. Instead, his attitude was – if you call it a work of art, then it is a work of art. By combining a bicycle wheel and a stool Duchamp took two everyday objects and created art. The so–called ‘ready–made’ was born.

Narrator 1: To hear the Collection Tour audio on this work , press 5–1–1.

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