If You Only Have an Hour

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

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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. © 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris / Estate of Marcel Duchamp

Marcel Duchamp: In 1913 I had the happy idea to fasten a bicycle wheel to a kitchen stool and watch it turn. It was around that time that the word 'Readymade' came to my mind to designate this form of manifestation. A point that I very much want to establish is that the choice of these Readymades was never dictated by an aesthetic delectation. The choice was based on visual indifference—a total absence of good or bad taste—in fact, a complete anesthesia.

Curator, Ann Temkin: Duchamp's very modest words disguise the fact that his invention of the Readymade, as he called it, was probably his greatest contribution to the art of the twentieth century. Readymades completely upended so many ideas of what art needed to do in order to be considered art. They weren't all quite as simple as Duchamp makes it sound. For example, the readymade here of the bicycle wheel on the kitchen stool was not something he just found. He had to have the idea of sticking the wheel, upside down, on top of the stool. It is an early example of what today we might call kinetic sculpture, because originally Duchamp intended the wheel to be spun. He once said how it calmed him to watch the wheel rotating on the kitchen stool somewhat like looking at a fire in a fireplace.

One of Duchamp's most famous sayings was that a work of art was not complete without the perception of the viewer when he or she starts asking questions. Even if those questions are nothing more than, 'Why in the world is this a work of art?'

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. © 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris / Estate of Marcel Duchamp
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