NZZ Art & Literature Saturday, November 20, 1999

Late Greetings from Marcel Duchamp; 
The Readymade Under Inspection 
by Thomas Zaunschirm 
excerpt translated by Thomas Girst 


In her New York Art Science Research Laboratory, Inc., the artist and Duchamp expert Rhonda Roland Shearer closely examines the means of production of the readymades. Her thesis, that Marcel Duchamp was tricking the art world, triggered an international response by the media. The consequences were discussed at a recent symposium at Harvard University.

The art historical summaries of this century, of big ideologies, are rather modest. Long gone are the innovative impulses of the different avant gardes. The heroes of abstraction, scandalous artistis pushing for broadening of the term of art, are classics now and have thus become inefficient. This appears to be true for the French-American Marcel Duchamp, 1887-1968, founder of the art of the object with his central idea of the Readymades. His influence on many generations of artists cannot be overestimated, although his achievements are long part of the canon and thus have lost their sting. A constantly broadening flood of texts and books informs us about his achievements and his biography. All the world knows by now that through the invention of the readymades, meaning the declaration of a mass produced object as artwork, he managed to blur or even extinguish the old definition of art. Since the formal aspects of a work were not significant for its interpretation Duchamp's oeuvre was in the beginning only regarded as being on the margins by art historians. Because the visible phenomena seemed unimportant, the Readymades turned into a fair of theories by thinkers and philosophers. CONTINUED>>