What Marcel Duchamp Taught Me

The Fine Art Society asks artists how “readymades” inspired them

A hundred years ago this year, Marcel Duchamp presented his first “pure readymade” and in so doing challenged the very notion of art itself. Laud him or loathe him, he has a legacy that cannot be ignored, and so a century after the Bottle Rack and Bicycle Wheel first appeared, The Fine Art Society is devoting all five floors of its central London home to an exhibition entitled What Marcel Duchamp Taught Me, which runs from Friday October 10 to Wednesday November 5.

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More than 50 leading contemporary artists have responded to the title, and the exhibition includes four new site-specific installations, including a video piece by Graham Hudson – which can be found in the room where Whistler staged his first, salon-style-defying solo exhibition – and a performance-based work from Non Zero One, as well as sculpture, painting and works on paper.

Image: Andy Keate

Many of the works have been created specifically for the show, such as Idris Khan’s Nude Descending Staircase (between £55,000 and £65,000, edition of seven, second picture), and all are accompanied by an explanation of Duchamp’s effect on their own practice. Charming Baker, for example, writes “Monsieur Duchamp taught me that I must strive to do only things that I feel like doing”. His painting, Four Percent, is a striking oil landscape covered with drilled holes (£45,000-£55,000, third picture). Gavin Turk’s Rotor Rings (£55,000-£65,000, fourth picture), a bold, mixed-media piece receiving its first major debut here, is accompanied by Turk’s statement “He taught me that it’s possible”, while Michael Craig-Martin writes “Duchamp taught me never to accept received wisdom, including his own, at face value”. His painting, a new piece called Art & Design 1917-2013 (£3,000-£8,000, first picture), was inspired by Duchamp’s 1920 Fresh Widow work.

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This is a large and wide-ranging show. Challenging, amusing and surprising, it is a visual demonstration of Duchamp’s extraordinary and enduring influence.

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