Duchamp’s readymades

Marcel Duchamp, Bicycle Wheel, replica 1960

Notes from Molesworth, Helen. Part Object Part Sculpture. Columbus, Ohio: Wexner Center for the Arts, The Ohio State University; University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2005.

p. 183-185

“It is well documented, but not much discussed, that the Swedish curator Ulf Linde and the Italian art dealer Arturo Schwarz helped to meet this demand [interest in Duchamp’s lost readymades increased in the late 1950s and early 1960s] in the early 1960s by making handmade versions of the readymades. In 1960 Linde made copies of Bicycle Wheel and Fresh Widow for a gallery exhibition of Duchamp’s work in Stockholm. It appears that, at first, Duchamp was unaware of these copies. At Linde’s beckoning, Duchamp traveled to Stockholm in 1961, where he was presented with Linde’s copies, both of which he graciously signed ‘copie conforme.'”


Marcel Duchamp, “Bottle Rack,” 1963 replica of 1914 original.

p. 185-188

“The second important public viewing of Linde’s replicas was in Arturo Schwarz’s Milan gallery in an exhibition held there in 1963, precisely the moment Schwarz himself was beginning to remake a set of the lost readymades. […] The precise details of how the Schwarz edition came to pass are not exactly known. […] It was agreed that all the readymades would be editioned in groups of eight with two extra copies, one for Duchamp and one for Schwarz. Suffice it to say that the vast majority of people who have encountered a readymade in the second half of the twentieth century have seen one from the set Schwarz produced in 1964.

Unlike the Linde replicas, the Schwarz readymades were overseen by Duchamp at every turn, and accuracy was of the essence as Schwarz hired professional engineers to make blueprints of the readymades based on the photographs. Only Fountain was not produced solely by a craftsman. A mold was made by a ceramicist and given to an Italian plumbing manufacturer, where, one evening, the factory line of mass production was halted as twelve Fountain sculptures were made instead. Schwarz subsequently hired professional craftsmen to make the objects – a glassblower for Paris Air, a welder for the Bottle Rack, a carpenter for the Hat Rack. The dominant art-historical reception of the readymade sees it as the agent that introduced the forces of mass production into the realm of art, yet this account too easily neglects the ‘handmade’ wrinkle in the story.”

Marcel Duchamp Traveller’s Folding Item (UNDERWOOD), 1916 (replica 1963-64), ready-made, cm 30 x 40 x 24, Collezione privata

p. 188

“If the meaning of objects (aesthetic and otherwise) derives, in relatively equal measure, from their function and their production, then the handmade quality of the remade readymades, and Duchamp’s explicit decision to have them refabricated in editions, seems wholly contradictory, certainly qualifying our sense of the ‘original’ readymades.”

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