"Apropos of 'Readymades'" - Marcel Duchamp
In 1913 I had the happy idea to fasten a bicycle wheel to a kitchen
stool and watch it turn.
A few months later I bought a cheap reproduction of a winter evening
landscape, which I called "Pharmacy" after adding two small dots, one
red and one yellow, in the horizon.
In New York in 1915 I bought at a hardware store a snow shovel on which
I wrote "In advance of the broken arm."
It was around that time that the word "Readymade" came to my mind to
designate this form of manifestation.
A point that I want very much to establish is that the choice of these
"Readymades" was never dictated by aesthetic delectation.
The choice was based on a reaction of visual indifference with
at the same time a total absence of good or bad taste ... in fact a
One important characteristic was the short sentence which I
occasionally inscribed on the "Readymade."
That sentence instead of describing the object like a title was meant
to carry the mind of the spectator towards other regions more verbal.
Sometimes I would add a graphic detail of presentation which, in order
to satisfy my craving for alliterations, would be called "Readymade
At another time, wanting to expose the basic antinomy between art and
"Readymades," I imagined a "Reciprocal Readymade": use a Rembrandt as
an ironing board!
I realized very soon the danger of repeating indiscriminately this form
of expression and decided to limit the production of "Readymades" to
a small number yearly. I was aware at that time, that for the spectator
even more for the artist, art is a habit forming drug and I
wanted to protect my "Readymades" against such a contamination.
Another aspect of the "Readymade" is its lack of uniqueness... the
replica of the "Readymade" delivering the same message, in fact nearly
every one of the "Readymades" existing today is not an original in the
A final remark to this egomaniac's discourse:
Since the tubes of paint used by an artist are manufactured and
readymade products we must conclude that all the paintings in the world
are "Readymades aided" and also works of assemblage.
Written in 1961