Taking the Piss

I’m somewhat obsession prone, and two of my obsessions are The Economist and Marcel Duchamp. Naturally I was pleased to see this column about his most famous work, “The Fountain”, on The Economist’s website today. Duchamp’s original Fountain was lost and probably destroyed, but the artist later reproduced a signed edition of the work, now all owned by museums and collectors. Recently, several more Fountains have appeared, supposedly authentic but without Dumchamp’s signature. I find this question of authenticity particularly interesting and amusing because the ready-made already deals with issues of authorship, originality, and the relationship between an artwork’s idea and the physical object. I agree with The Economist’s conclusion about Duchamp’s possible reaction to this scandal:

“Duchamp’s relationship to commerce was not naive. Although he preferred to give away his work rather than sell it, he made a living as an art dealer for many            years. Duchamp was also an able chess player who could think a good few moves ahead. One wonders whether the Dada master, who challenged the notion of the authentic artwork, might not be amused by the way these questionable “Fountains” muddy the waters of his current market. ‘My production,’ he once said, ‘has no right to be speculated upon.'”

Read the full article at The Economist.

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