Brian Peters, Eric Lederman, Jeff Eppright

Mrs. Emerson


March 17, 2018

Let’s Talk About Art

Art has played an important role in society throughout history. From cave drawings to modern sculptures, art has been around as long as the human race has existed. Art has very few boundaries, art is beholden to the eyes of the viewers. Something as simple as a urinal can be considered art, as is the case for Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain”.

The piece is a common urinal from the early 20th century that was usually presented on its back for exhibition purposes rather than upright. Duchamp removed the urinal from its natural scenery in order to form a different view on the meaning of his art. The urinal was signed and dated “R. Mutt 1917”. Duchamp submitted it in a form of satire to counter the idea of the Society of Independent Artists. A salon in New York which claimed that they would accept any work of art, so long as the artist paid the application fee. Duchamp said that a goal of his with this piece of art was to change the original definition as to what art really is and what defines something as art. Although some may argue that this piece is not art, the “fountain” has been able to gather attention of critics all around the world.

One reason as to why this piece of art became so infamous was due to the choice of the object. Duchamp chose a urinal, a mass produced product that necessarily holds no actual importance in the world of art. It was said that his message was “art is something you piss on”. In a way he was saying that maybe everyone feels the need to critique art so he chose an object that literally is pissed on. With this work of art Duchamp started conceptual art.

Others believe this believe this piece is in fact art, as Duchamp made It his own. In spite of all the backlash the “Fountain” received, you can not argue that this was not his idea. “Whether Mr Mutt with his own hands made the fountain or not has no importance. He CHOSE it. He took an ordinary article of life, placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under the new title and point of view—created a new thought for that object.” (Beatrice Wood). Duchamp had also been known “readymades” -existing objects taken from real life and modified or re-contextualized to function as works of art. His style of art suggests that anything can be art as long as you claim it to be your “creation”.

What people can not deny about this work of art is that it raises a question: Is this art? We believe that Duchamp did this to spark a debate in the mind of the viewer, to put that idea into people’s brains. What defines something as art and what makes something art? Is art an opinion, is it up to what people see and what they interpret it to be?