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Modern and contemporary art

Video transcript

we're at SFMOMA and we're looking at a Marcel Duchamp this is fountain which he originally made in 1917 but which he remade in 1964 the original was gone thrown away or who knows what so this is a small series that was made in 1964 after that original work of 1917 and he oversaw the making of this I think we needed to be really careful with the word makings okay what Duchamp did of course is he went to a plumbing supply house it was called Mott and purchased this and okay so he didn't make it right so he made it as a work of art through the alchemy of the artist transformed this he turned the urinal on its side designed it our mud and dated it and submitted it to an art exhibition for a new group that he was a founding member of the American Society for independent artists and their notion was that the juried exhibition that was prevalent in the United States in New York at this time and remember to shop had just come over from Paris was in fact a real problem because the jury always selected the traditional work that they were associated with and this new group wanted to bring in new possibilities right so they were supposed to accept every work that was submitted but they rejected this one well I think he was really pushing the boundary well he submitted it as sculpture well and if it which to me is even more remarkable because when you think about sculpture it has an even more monumental graphic tradition than even than painting to take this urinal and turn it on its side some art historians have dealt with this in the most absurd way talking about its formal qualities with its shiny curves porcelain surface but it's a euro although it is transformed and this is of course what Duchamp called already made well you use the word alchemy before and I think that that's an interesting word because one of the ways we can think about what art is is a kind of transformation of ordinary materials into something really wonderful that transports us and that makes us see things in a new way and we didn't make anything he is asking us to see the urinal and anyway not necessarily as an aesthetic object but to make us ask those philosophical questions about what art is and what the artist does but he separates craftsmanship and its relationship to the aesthetic to aesthetic enjoyment and to the profundity of a work of art just absolutely threat that's the philosophical question he wants to open up does art have to be made by the hand of the art and of course he's doing it in the most absurd way by putting a urinal forward calling it fountain so what is art is it the idea is it the concept can an artist just have the idea not make the object can art be pure philosophy if your theory exactly
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