Marcel Duchamp In Advance of the Broken Arm August 1964 (fourth version, after lost original of November 1915)

  • MoMA, Floor 5, 505 The Alfred H. Barr, Jr. Galleries

Beginning in 1913 Duchamp challenged accepted artistic standards by selecting mass-produced, functional objects from everyday life and designating them as works of art. These sculptures, which he called "readymades," were aimed at subverting traditional notions of skill, uniqueness, and beauty, boldly declaring that an artist could create simply by making choices. Duchamp purchased the first version of this work in a hardware store in 1915, signed and dated the shovel, and hung it on display from his studio ceiling. Its title, In Advance of the Broken Arm, playfully alludes to the objects intended purpose.

Gallery label from 2016.
Additional text

To make In Advance of the Broken Arm, Marcel Duchamp selected a snow shovel, hung it from the ceiling of his studio, and called it art. His Readymades—mass-produced, functional objects he designated as art—challenged many accepted assumptions and traditions, namely that art should reflect an artist’s skills, or even be handcrafted by the artist. Duchamp asserted that an artist could create simply by making choices. His Readymades also aimed at shifting viewers’ engagement with works of art from what Duchamp called the “retinal” (pleasing to the eye) to the “intellectual” (in “the service of the mind”), subverting the traditional notion that beauty is a defining characteristic of art.

Duchamp frequently assigned humorous titles to his Readymades. In Advance of the Broken Arm refers playfully to the function of a snow shovel: to remove snow from the ground. It assumes that without the shovel to remove the snow, one might slip and fall and even break an arm.

Wood and galvanized-iron snow shovel
52" (132 cm) high
Gift of The Jerry and Emily Spiegel Family Foundation
Object number
© 2024 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris / Estate of Marcel Duchamp
Painting and Sculpture

Installation views

We have identified these works in the following photos from our exhibition history.

How we identified these works

In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.

If you notice an error, please contact us at [email protected].


If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

MoMA licenses archival audio and select out of copyright film clips from our film collection. At this time, MoMA produced video cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. All requests to license archival audio or out of copyright film clips should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For access to motion picture film stills for research purposes, please contact the Film Study Center at [email protected]. For more information about film loans and our Circulating Film and Video Library, please visit

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].