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The 1917 original, which is lost, as photographed by Alfred Stieglitz at 291 Gallery in New York. (via Cabinetmagazine.org)

How many urinals by Marcel Duchamp are there? Turns out there are at least 17.

Greg Allen of Greg.org points out that fact and also takes the piss [sorry, couldn’t resist] out of Washington Post critic Blake Gopnik for his recent review of “Stolen Pieces” (1995-97) in the Reality is Overrated show by Eva and Franco Mattes, aka 0100101110101101.org, at Postmasters.

The art work, which sounds like a MUST-SEE, involves the display of fragments from famous art works by Duchamp, Kandinsky, Beuys, Rauschenberg, Warhol, and Koons that were stolen by the artistic pair from museums in the US and Europe.

Gopnik’s claim:

In the case of Duchamp’s “Fountain,” could it be that the Italians are actively helping his art do its work? The Duchamp urinals we now see in our museums are visibly handcrafted replacements for his mass-produced industrial original, which disappeared early on. By pawning off a piece of handicraft, made by a hired artisan, onto his collectors, I think Duchamp was poking fun at any fool who insisted on getting an “original” Duchamp, instead of heading to their neighborhood plumbing supplier. The chip of porcelain in Stolen Pieces is an extension of Duchamp’s chipping away at precious art and its status as collectible commodity.

Allen’s reality check:

Actually, as has been reported recently by no less august a source than The Economist, Duchamp’s Fountains replicas include two or three actual, vintage urinals Duchamp signed, showed, or sold; and somewhat more than twelve which were cast, just as porcelain is, from a clay sculpture [aka “the prototype”] made from Arthur Stieglitz’s photo of the “original.”

And there’s more.

Interesting factoid: “the prototype” was sold to Andy Warhol in 1973 and collector/New Museum trustee Dakis Joannou purchased it at Sotheby’s auction of Warhol’s estate in 1988.

Duchamp’s urinal has been an inspiration to artists of all stripes over the years and some of my favorites (even if I think they each acheive varying degrees of success) have been by Miss Tint Organization, this CCTV version by Juyoung Kim, a walk-in tribute to Duchamp’s original at Burning Man by Saul Melman and Ani Weinberg, Sherrie Levine’s version from 1991, these creative ones (though perhaps not directly influenced by Duchamp), and this creation by an anonymous street artists.

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Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

3 replies on “A Urinal Is a Urinal Is a Urinal”

  1. not Duchamp but the weak link is more politically motivated potty humour from street artists

    and

    1. sorry – links failed so please feel free to delete that pointless post.

      and this one

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