The ideas of French artist Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) are among the most seminal in the history and development of art in the 20th century. He championed the concept that by placing any object in an art context, it becomes art. This was made abundantly clear when Duchamp first attempted to show his now famous Fountain in Paris at the Society of Independent Artists exhibition in 1917. The signed urinal was summarily dismissed and refused entry. Anyone who has ever visited a contemporary art exhibition and felt the discomfort (or even embarrassment) of trying to distinguish between what is "art" and what is merely a fire extinguisher, trash can, or bowl of candy, knows the power of this type of "anti-art art".
With his Bicycle Wheel, Duchamp also played upon this distinction, or lack of distinction, between art and the everyday. This work, both an example of "assisted ready-made" and "kinetic "art used similarly mundane, mass-produced objects, but incorporated motion. He made his first version of the sculpture in his studio in Paris in 1913. At the time, his thoughts were not towards changing the course of 20th century art.
"...when I put a bicycle wheel on a stool the fork down, there was no idea of a 'readymade,' or anything else. It was just a distraction. I didn't have any special reason to do it, or any intention of showing it or describing anything."
In 1951, he created the version shown on these banners which is now in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art in New York. The idea of producing this piece over and over played into the concept of the work itself, that mass-produced objects could in a sense be mass-produced as sculptures, and belying any traditional sense of "original" works. The artistry lay not in the hand of the artist or the fabrication of the pieces, but in the intellectual concept behind the piece itself.
Both sides of this banner are identical. The image floats on a white background, and large orange letters cross it on a diagonal and read "Dada". Below this is the name of the museum in black letters, "MoMA/The Museum of Modern Art".
These banners were displayed around Manhattan to promote The Museum of Modern Art's exhibition Dada June 18 to September 11, 2006. The exhibition was also seen at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, and the Center Pompidou in Paris.
French artist Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) is known as a key leader of the
surrealist and Dada movements. He began his career as a painter in 1908,
but moved on to sculpture relatively early in his career. He pioneered both
kinetic art and ready-made art two innovations that would
prove seminal to surrealism and Dada art. His ready-made works were
constructed of simple everyday objects taken out of context as art, most
famously his Fountain, a urinal signed by the artist and mounted on a
gallery wall. The work was even voted the most influential modern art work of all
time. Duchamp did not leave a large body of work, and was actually
quite content to see his ideas taken on and further developed by other
Material: Printed vinyl
Dimensions: 35" x 96"
(88.9cm x 243.8cm)
To reach the pinnacle of artistic influence, Marcel Duchamp's "to do" list might simply have read: "Sign urinal. Mount on gallery wall." His seemingly simple, bold act led to the great conceptual leap at the heart of modern and contemporary art - the idea that anything an artist deems art, is art. Duchamp's similarly iconic "Bicycle Wheel" is featured on 15 banners from the recent Dada exhibition at New York's Museum of Modern Art.