<h1 class="page">MARCEL DUCHAMP AND THE READYMADE</h1> <!-- subheader --> <div class="equal"> <div class="row"> <!-- theme name --> <div class="one"> <a href="/learn/moma_learning/themes/dada" class="subhead-link">Back to Overview</a> <h2>Dada</h2> <p class="medtext">Discover how Dada artists used chance, collaboration, and language as a catalyst for creativity.</p> </div> <div class="space"></div> <!-- tool kit --> <div class="two" id="ttoolkit"> <div id="menu-container"> <ul id="drop_down_menu"> <li class="menu"><a href="#" id="menu-sizer">&nbsp;</a> <ul class="links"> <li><a href="http://moma.org/wp/moma_learning/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Worksheet_Readymade.doc" class="doc">“Make Your Own Readymade” worksheet (.doc) </a></li> <li><a href="http://moma.org/wp/moma_learning/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Dada_MarcelDuchamp.ppt" class="ppt">“Duchamp and the Readymade” PowerPoint Slideshow (.ppt) </a></li> <li><a href="http://moma.org/wp/moma_learning/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Worksheet_ArtandControversy.doc" class="doc">“Art and Controversy” worksheet (.doc)</a></li> <li><a href="http://www.moma.org/wp/moma_learning/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Worksheet_WhatMakesArt.doc" class="doc">“What Makes a Work of Art?” worksheet (.doc) </a></li> <li class="more-item"><a href="/learn/moma_learning/teacher_toolkit">More</a></li> </ul> </li> </ul> </div> <span class="medtext"><strong>Tools &amp; Tips:</strong><br/></span> <p>Marcel Duchamp and the Readymade</p> </div> </div> <!-- fake row for pink arrow --> <div class="row"> <div class="one-arrow"></div> </div> </div> <div id="content" class="clearfix"> <div class="left" id="theme-sidebar"> <hr/> <div class="subtheme-container clearfix selected"> <div class="subtheme clearfix"> <div> <img src="https://www.moma.org/wp/moma_learning/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Duchamp.-Bicycle-Wheel-50x50.jpg" width="50" height="50" /> <h3>Marcel Duchamp and the Readymade</h3> <p>Explore the provocative readymades of Marcel Duchamp.</p> </div> <a href="/learn/moma_learning/themes/dada/marcel-duchamp-and-the-readymade"></a> </div> </div> <hr/> <div class="subtheme-container clearfix"> <div class="subtheme clearfix"> <div> <img src="https://www.moma.org/wp/moma_learning/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Man-Ray.-The-Rope-Dancer-50x50.jpg" width="50" height="50" /> <h3>Chance Creations: Collage, Photomontage, and Assemblage</h3> <p>Explore three Dada methods that left it (mostly) to chance.</p> </div> <a href="/learn/moma_learning/themes/dada/chance-creations-collage-photomontage-and-assemblage"></a> </div> </div> <hr/> <div class="subtheme-container clearfix"> <div class="subtheme clearfix"> <div> <img src="https://www.moma.org/wp/moma_learning/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/El-Lissitszky.-Caberet-Voltaire-Program-50x50.jpg" width="50" height="50" /> <h3>Artistic Collaboration</h3> <p>Discover the role of collaboration and play in Dada.</p> </div> <a href="/learn/moma_learning/themes/dada/artistic-collaboration"></a> </div> </div> <hr/> <div class="subtheme-container clearfix"> <div class="subtheme clearfix"> <div> <img src="https://www.moma.org/wp/moma_learning/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Theo-Van-Doesburg.-etc.-Small-Dada-Evening-50x50.jpg" width="50" height="50" /> <h3>Word Play</h3> <p>Discover how Dada artists challenged and manipulated the rules, syntax, and symbols of language.</p> </div> <a href="/learn/moma_learning/themes/dada/word-play"></a> </div> </div> <hr/> </div> <div class="left" id="theme-content"> <p>Marcel Duchamp was a pioneer of <a href="/learn/moma_learning/glossary#dada-glossary">Dada</a>, a movement that questioned long-held assumptions about what art should be, and how it should be made. In the years immediately preceding <a href="/learn/moma_learning/glossary#world-war-i">World War I</a>, Duchamp found success as a <a href="/learn/moma_learning/glossary#painter">painter</a> in Paris. But he soon gave up <a href="/learn/moma_learning/glossary#painting">painting</a> almost entirely, explaining, “I was interested in ideas—not merely in visual products.”<sup>1</sup> <div class="image-gallery theme-gallery align-carousel-right" id="image-gallery"> <div class="gallery-main multi-images"> <div class="vertical-aligner" id="vertical-aligner"> </div> <div class="caption" id="caption-text"> </div> <a href="/learn/moma_learning/marcel-duchamp-bicycle-wheel-new-york-1951-third-version-after-lost-original-of-1913" class="hover"></a> </div> <div id="gallery-thumbnails" class="clearfix"> <div style="background-image:url(https://www.moma.org/wp/moma_learning/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Duchamp.-Bicycle-Wheel-65x65.jpg);"><a href="/learn/moma_learning/marcel-duchamp-bicycle-wheel-new-york-1951-third-version-after-lost-original-of-1913" class="slideshowThumbnail" id="https://www.moma.org/wp/moma_learning/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Duchamp.-Bicycle-Wheel-395x395.jpg" data-title="Marcel Duchamp. &lt;em&gt;Bicycle Wheel.&lt;/em&gt; New York, 1951 (third version, after lost original of 1913)" data-object-id="81631""></a></div> <div style="background-image:url(https://www.moma.org/wp/moma_learning/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Duchamp.-In-advance-of-a-Broken-Arm-48x65.jpg);"><a href="/learn/moma_learning/marcel-duchamp-in-advance-of-the-broken-arm-august-1964-fourth-version-after-lost-original-of-november-1915" class="slideshowThumbnail" id="https://www.moma.org/wp/moma_learning/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Duchamp.-In-advance-of-a-Broken-Arm-295x395.jpg" data-title="Marcel Duchamp.&lt;em&gt; In Advance of the Broken Arm.&lt;/em&gt; August 1964 (fourth version, after lost original of November 1915)" data-object-id="105050""></a></div> <div style="background-image:url(https://www.moma.org/wp/moma_learning/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Duchamp.-Fresh-Window-44x65.jpg);"><a href="/learn/moma_learning/marcel-duchamp-fresh-widow-1920" class="slideshowThumbnail" id="https://www.moma.org/wp/moma_learning/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Duchamp.-Fresh-Window-270x395.jpg" data-title="Marcel Duchamp. &lt;em&gt;Fresh Widow.&lt;/em&gt; 1920" data-object-id="81028""></a></div> <div style="background-image:url(https://www.moma.org/wp/moma_learning/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Duchamp.-Three-Standard-Stoppages-65x47.jpg);"><a href="/learn/moma_learning/marcel-duchamp-3-standard-stoppages-1913-14" class="slideshowThumbnail" id="https://www.moma.org/wp/moma_learning/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Duchamp.-Three-Standard-Stoppages-469x344.jpg" data-title="Marcel Duchamp. &lt;em&gt;3 Standard Stoppages.&lt;/em&gt; 1913–14" data-object-id="78990""></a></div> </div> </div> <p>Seeking an alternative to representing objects in <a href="/learn/moma_learning/glossary#paint">paint</a>, Duchamp began presenting objects themselves as art. He selected mass-produced, commercially available, often utilitarian objects, designating them as art and giving them titles. “<a href="/learn/moma_learning/glossary#readymade">Readymades</a>,” as he called them, disrupted centuries of thinking about the artist’s role as a skilled creator of original handmade objects. Instead, Duchamp argued, &#8220;An ordinary object [could be] elevated to the dignity of a work of art by the mere choice of an artist.&#8221;</p> <p>The readymade also defied the notion that art must be beautiful. Duchamp claimed to have chosen everyday objects “based on a reaction of visual indifference, with at the same time a total absence of good or bad taste….”<sup>2</sup> In doing so, Duchamp paved the way for <a href="/learn/moma_learning/glossary#conceptual-art-glossary">Conceptual art</a>—work that was “in the service of the mind,”<sup>3</sup> as opposed to a purely “retinal” art, intended only to please the eye.</p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>To explore more, click on each artwork thumbnail, then click again on the larger image that appears in the box above.</strong></span></p> <div class="term-definition" id="term-definition-1"> <div class="term-def-content"> Duchamp as quoted in “Eleven Europeans in America,” James Johnson Sweeney (ed.), <em>The Museum of Modern Art Bulletin </em>(New York), vol. 13, no. 4/5, 1946, p. 20 </div> </div> <div class="term-definition" id="term-definition-2"> <div class="term-def-content"> Duchamp as quoted in <em>The Art of Assemblage: A Symposium</em>, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 19, 1961 </div> </div> <div class="term-definition" id="term-definition-3"> <div class="term-def-content"> Duchamp as quoted in H. H. Arnason and Marla F. Prather, <em>History of Modern Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture, Photography</em> (Fourth Edition) (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1998), 274 </div> </div> <div class="term-definition" id="term-definition-painter"> <div class="term-def-content"> <p>One who applies paint to canvas, wood, paper, or another support to produce a picture.</p> <div class="glossary"> <a href="/learn/moma_learning/glossary#painter">Glossary</a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="term-definition" id="term-definition-world-war-i"> <div class="term-def-content"> <p>A war fought from 1914 to 1918, in which Great Britain, France, Russia, Belgium, Italy, Japan, the United States, and other allies defeated Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey, and Bulgaria.</p> <div class="glossary"> <a href="/learn/moma_learning/glossary#world-war-i">Glossary</a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="term-definition" id="term-definition-painting"> <div class="term-def-content"> <p>A work of art made from paint applied to canvas, wood, paper, or another support (noun).</p> <div class="glossary"> <a href="/learn/moma_learning/glossary#painting">Glossary</a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="term-definition" id="term-definition-paint"> <div class="term-def-content"> <p>A combination of pigment, binder, and solvent (noun); the act of producing a picture using paint (verb, gerund).</p> <div class="glossary"> <a href="/learn/moma_learning/glossary#paint" class="video">Watch video</a> <a href="/learn/moma_learning/glossary#paint">Glossary</a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="term-definition" id="term-definition-scale"> <div class="term-def-content"> <p>The ratio between the size of an object and its model or representation, as in the scale of a map to the actual geography it represents.</p> <div class="glossary"> <a href="/learn/moma_learning/glossary#scale">Glossary</a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="term-definition" id="term-definition-readymade"> <div class="term-def-content"> <p>A term coined by Marcel Duchamp in 1915 to describe prefabricated, often mass-produced objects isolated from their functional context and elevated to the status of art by the mere act of an artist’s selection and designation.</p> <div class="glossary"> <a href="/learn/moma_learning/glossary#readymade">Glossary</a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="term-definition" id="term-definition-medium"> <div class="term-def-content"> <p>The materials used to create a work of art, and the categorization of art based on the materials used (for example, painting [or more specifically, watercolor], drawing, sculpture).</p> <div class="glossary"> <a href="/learn/moma_learning/glossary#medium">Glossary</a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="term-definition" id="term-definition-installation"> <div class="term-def-content"> <p>A form of art, developed in the late 1950s, which involves the creation of an enveloping aesthetic or sensory experience in a particular environment, often inviting active engagement or immersion by the spectator.</p> <div class="glossary"> <a href="/learn/moma_learning/glossary#installation">Glossary</a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="term-definition" id="term-definition-dada-glossary"> <div class="term-def-content"> <p>An artistic and literary movement that grew out of dissatisfaction with traditional social values and conventional artistic practices during World War I (1914–18). Dada artists were disillusioned by the social values that led to the war and sought to expose accepted and often repressive conventions of order and logic by shocking people into self-awareness.</p> <div class="glossary"> <a href="/learn/moma_learning/glossary#dada-glossary">Glossary</a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="term-definition" id="term-definition-conceptual-art-glossary"> <div class="term-def-content"> <p>Art that emerged in the late 1960s, emphasizing ideas and theoretical practices rather than the creation of visual forms. In 1967, the artist Sol LeWitt gave the new genre<strong> </strong>its name in his essay “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art,” in which he wrote, “The idea itself, even if not made visual, is as much a work of art as any finished product.”</p> <div class="glossary"> <a href="/learn/moma_learning/glossary#conceptual-art-glossary">Glossary</a> </div> </div> </div> <div class="hook dkblue"> <div class="pointer"></div> <p><strong>What&#8217;s in a Name?</strong><br /> By the early 1900s, Americans were using the term &#8220;ready-made&#8221; to distinguish manufactured items from those that were handmade. In 1913, when Duchamp designated his first readymade work of art, he appropriated the term.</p> </div> <!-- start featured boxes --> <div id="box-section"> <div id="questions"> <div class="outer-box"> <div class="inner-box"> <h3>Questions &amp; Activities</h3> <div class="content-box"> <ol class="numbered-list"> <li><p><strong>What Makes a Work of Art?</strong></p> <p>Make a list of your criteria for what art is by considering these questions:</p> <ol type="a"> <li>What should an artwork provide to both the maker and the viewer?</li> <li>Who is it for?</li> <li>Where does one encounter art?</li> <li>What is the role of the artist?</li> </ol> <p>Compare, discuss, and debate your criteria with friends or classmates. Which criteria do you have in common and which do you disagree about?</p> <p>Do <em>Bicycle Wheel</em> and<em> In Advance of the Broken Arm</em> by Marcel Duchamp meet any of your criteria? Do they challenge your expectations of what a work of art can be? If so, in what ways?</p> </li> <li><p><strong>Make Your Own Readymade</strong></p> <p>Select three objects from your surrounding environment to designate as <a href="/learn/moma_learning/glossary#readymade">readymades</a>. Brainstorm a list of titles for your readymades. Display or take snapshots of your readymades along with their titles.</p> <p>Did wordplay or humor play a role in the titles you selected? How do the titles affect the way these everyday objects are perceived by yourself and others?</p> </li> <li><p><strong>Art and Controversy</strong></p> <p>At the time they were made, works of art like Duchamp’s <em>Bicycle Wheel</em> were received with controversy. Critics called Duchamp’s readymades immoral and vulgar, even plagiaristic.</p> <p>Conduct research on a work of art or art exhibition that has recently been met with controversy. Find at least two articles that critique the work or exhibition. Write a 500-word summary of the issues addressed in these articles. What is it about these works that upset, challenge, or offend the critic? Was the controversial reception related to the display or <a href="/learn/moma_learning/glossary#installation">installation</a>, the <a href="/learn/moma_learning/glossary#medium">medium</a>, the <a href="/learn/moma_learning/glossary#scale">scale</a>, the cost, or the location of the work? Do you agree with the critics’ assessment?</p> <p>Need ideas? <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art#Controversial_art">Start here</a>.</p> </li> </ol> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div id="related" class="clearfix"> <div class="outer-box"> <div class="inner-box"> <h3>Related Themes</h3> <div class="content-box"> <div class="featured-content clearfix w100"> <a href="/learn/moma_learning/themes/">Pop Art</a> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="outer-box"> <div class="inner-box"> <h3>Related Links</h3> <div class="content-box"> <div class="featured-content clearfix w100"> <img src="https://www.moma.org/wp/moma_learning/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Picture-9-e1345063986977-50x50.png" alt="" width="50" height="50"/> <div class="left"> <a href="http://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2010/originalcopy/intro05.html"><strong>WEBSITE:</strong> <em>The Original Copy: Photography of Sculpture, 1839 to Today</em> exhibition site</a> </div> </div> <div class="featured-content clearfix w100"> <img src="https://www.moma.org/wp/moma_learning/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/DuchampINterview-50x50.png" alt="" width="50" height="50"/> <div class="left"> <a href="http://www.dada-companion.com/duchamp/interviews.php"><strong>VIDEO:</strong> Marcel Duchamp interviewed by Joan Bakewell (1968)</a> </div> </div> <div class="featured-content clearfix w100"> <img src="https://www.moma.org/wp/moma_learning/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/MakingSense-50x50.png" alt="" width="50" height="50"/> <div class="left"> <a href="http://www.understandingduchamp.com"><strong>WEBSITE:</strong><em>Making Sense of Marcel Duchamp</em>, an interactive website by Andrew Stafford (Flash plug-in required)</a> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="outer-box"> <div class="inner-box"> <h3>From MoMA Stores</h3> <div class="content-box"> <div class="featured-content clearfix w100"> <img src="https://www.moma.org/wp/moma_learning/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/OriginalCopy-50x50.png" alt="" width="50" height="50"/> <div class="left"> <em>The Original Copy: Photography of Sculpture, 1839 to Today</em> exhibition catalogue<br/> <a href="http://www.momastore.org/museum/moma/ProductDisplay?storeId=10001&catalogId=10451&langId=-1&categoryId=11486&parent_category_rn=26683&productId=68208&keyWord=The%20Original%20Copy%20Photography%20of%20Sculpture%201839%20to%20Today%20(HC)&purpose=crawl">BUY &gt;</a> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div>