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Ready Made Art
(technique, 1913-present)


Found Art, Ready Made Art, Objet Trouvé


Readymade is the term used by the French artist Marcel Duchamp to describe works of art he made from manufactured objects. His earliest readymades included Bicycle Wheel of 1913, a wheel mounted on a wooden stool. In 1917 in New York, Duchamp made his most notorious readymade, Fountain, a men’s urinal signed by the artist with “R. Mutt” and exhibited placed on its back.
“Fountain” was the first ready-made that Duchamp engineered for scandal. The artist was a member of the board of the Society of Independent Artists, whose exhibition had no jury and was set to be the largest in America. He knew that most people would perceive the work as a prank, particularly if submitted by an unknown Richard Mutt from Philadelphia. When the board duly voted against it, Duchamp and his chief patron, Walter Arensberg, resigned in protest—a story that was swiftly leaked to the New York papers.


The use of found objects was quickly taken up by the Dada movement, being used by Man Ray and Francis Picabia who combined it with traditional art by sticking combs onto a painting to represent hair. A well-known work by Man Ray is Gift (1921), which is an iron with nails sticking out from its flat underside, thus rendering it useless.



Picasso welded bicycle handlebars to a metal bicycle seat, which he had cast in bronze. He called it Bull’s Head.


Throughout the 1990s Damien Hirst exhibited a shark preserved in formaldehyde in a glass tank and called it The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living. He has taken this to extremes by presenting in the same way a cow and calf cut into sections, and, in A Thousand Years, a rotting cow’s head, maggots and flies. Tracey Emin exhibited a tent covered with appliquéd names, titled Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995, and then her own unmade bed with sweat-stained sheets, surrounded by items such as her slippers, period-stained underwear and drink bottles, titled My Bed.



Artists Ready Made Art:
  • arm - tak



Critics tend to declare that Marcel Duchamp’s urinal, entitled “Fountain”, is the most important artwork of the 20th century. Yet its standing as a collectable object has always lagged behind its value as an idea. The work questioned notions of authenticity when Duchamp first purchased the mass-produced plumbing fixture and signed it “R. Mutt” in 1917. Now, over 40 years after the artist’s death, the problem of legitimacy remains relevant as unauthorised urinals have been discovered circulating in Italy. The art world loves paradoxical conceptual gestures, but it seems that someone might be taking the piss…




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