See the story begins with Marcel Duchamp buying a new porcelain urinal from a porcelain manufacturer when he lived in New York City in 1917, taking it back to his studio and signing it "R.Mutt". He then leaves it off as an entry to The Independent Art Exhibition at the Grand Central Palace which was hosted by the Hoi Polloi of New York Society and Culture. The 27 year old rising art celebrity, Duchamp was on the board of directors of the exhibition and paid the $6 entry fee quietly for the sculpture by R. Mutt. There are a few explanations for the pseudonym. One of course is Duchamp's fascination with American comics (Mutt and Jeff) and the German word, Armut, which means poverty. When asked what the "R" stood for, Duchamp off handedly replied Richard, which either meant nothing, or referred to the French slang term for a wealthy man. The Exhibition was sorely disappointed when the much anticipated work Duchamp had hinted he was submitting to the show, to be titled, Tulip Hysteria Coordinating, never materialized. The Fountain was denied submission to the show when the director pronounced that it was in no way to be considered a work of art. Duchamp resigned immediately in protest. After the exhibition, the urinal was found in the debris and found it's way to a prominent NY Art Gallery where Alfred Steiglitz took the photo that immortalized it. Soon after, Duchamp was revealed to be the real R. Mutt, and the surrounding scandal brought the young artist still more fame. He had taken the viewer out of the traditional museum space and led him next door (to the restroom). Duchamp became a hero for his generation of artists, and an icon for those to follow. Duchamp’s iconic invention left the world as strangely as it had entered it. It simply disappeared. The exact circumstances remain a mystery, but in all probability the original was discarded as a urinal—a fitting, and, for a urinal, noble death. It is here that the chain of events leading to the arrest of a French seed merchant began to tighten. As interest in the work grew despite its disappearance, Duchamp responded with a surprising decision: he authorized a series of “replicas,” first in 1950 for an exhibition at Sidney Janis Gallery, and ending with an edition of eight that he put up for sale. All in all there were 17 authorized version of the "Fountain" by Duchamp. If you'd like to see them all, click here!
So what Pinoncelli destroyed in Nimes was a copy, one of many copies of the vanished original. Pinoncelli used that as part of the justification of his conceptual act and went on to attempt the destruction of another of the copies in 2006 at The Pompidou Center Museum.
Duchamp, though had opened the conceptual door that freed what we considered art. It is the gesture, the idea, the joke, the CONCEPT! It is what the artist decide is art. Duchamp used the term Readymades to label what he was doing. A bicycle wheel, a snow shovel, a bottle drying rack all became art when invested by the artist with an identity. They had a new reason to exist. What is today’s student of art to make of such a series of events? Perhaps Pinoncelli is a monomaniacal, toy-smashing, self-mutilating vandal. Perhaps he is an artist. Perhaps he is both. How are we then to understand his repeat attacks on Duchamp’s not-so-singular Fountain? The question is difficult because of the spectacular status of the object in question. Two years after the Independents show, Duchamp produced a work entitled L.H.O.O.Q.—this time under the pseudonym Rrose Sélavy. L.H.O.O.Q. was a
|she has a hot ass|
Rrose Selavy, 1919
|the egnimatic Rrose Selavy|
Okay, so let's go to China where the brilliant socio/politcal activist conceptualist artist, Ai Weiwei purchased a number of authentic Han Dynasty urns. One he famously destroyed in his 1995 performance piece, Dropping a Han-Dynasty Urn. I would say that this expands Duchamp's definition of a reciprocal readymade exponentially.
Stop me if you've heard this one before, okay? An artist walks into a gallery in the Perez Art Museum in Miami last week and picks up one of the Han Dynasty Urns that were bought and altered by Ai Weiwei. He totally changed their character with bright colored paint. He had already turned them into Duchampian "assisted readymades" called, Colored Vases. The man, Miami artist, Maximo Caminero as a conceptual act to highlight the lack of exposure that American Artist receive in their own communities, picks up one of the Weiwei assisted readymade urns and smashes it on the floor. As a conceptual gesture, he has completed the work, turning it into a reciprocal readymade. At the time, Caminero stated that he was inspired by photos on display in the same room of Ai himself dropping and breaking a vase — ”I saw it as a provocation by Weiwei to join him in an act of performance protest,”, But, of course, like Pinoncelli, he was arrested and charged with the destruction of property. The authorities have put a value of $1,000,000 on the vase. Ai Weiwei has stated that , in his words, he finds this “misleading. You cannot stand in front of a classical painting and kill somebody and say that you are inspired by the artist. … This doesn’t make any sense.”
|the name of this piece from 1923|
by Duchamps friend and fellow
artist, Man Ray, was actually titled
Object To Be Destroyed
Some people have questioned whether Ai is being hypocritical or taking himself too seriously, but it seems pretty clear that the issue here is ownership: “Ai Wei Wei, I believe, has owned in one way or other the things that he has destroyed. Caminero was destroying someone else’s property. That strikes me as a form of vandalism and not a form of art,” said Kerry Brougher, interim director of the Hirshhorn Museum and organizer of the exhibition Damage Control: Art and Destruction Since 1950, in an interview with the Washington Post. But Weiwei has been criticized for his destruction of Chinese heritage. Get real...millions of pieces of ancient Chinese pottery were looted sold and destroyed by the West over the centuries of colonialization. I'd say that Weiweis's act was more of a statement of defiance against the rape of Chinese culture. If you want to get pissed at artists who have defiled art as a concept, why not pick on the Chapman Brothers, who in 2003, defaced and "rectified" an edition of supposedly priceless Goya Aquatints, The Disasters of War and presented them as Reciprocal Readymades...or as they put it,"rectified" them and then exhibited them and turned a tidy profit. As an interesting conceptual "aside" here is an article that describes an participatory conceptual art "happening" in 2002 in Detroit in which a reproduction of Duchamp'as Fountain and many other works of art as well as part of the museum itself were gleefully destroyed. As one young participant in the event stated."I never had so much fun in my life!"And what would that property be without a value? News outlets have reported the vase as being worth $1 million, a figure that apparently comes from the Florida police affidavit for the incident. Asked about that sum by the AP, Ai called it “exaggerated” and “a very ridiculous number.” What do you think? I would only hope that Ai Weiwei could come to terms with this singular act and realize that there is not so big a gulf ideologically between himself and Maximo. It would be a very interesting thing if Weiwei would consider the destruction of his vase as a collaborative art work with Caminero. It would take the concept of reciprocal readymades to an entirely new level! For the record, Caminero has apologized for action. I truly sympathize with and support Maximo Caminero, who is a great and passionate artist in his own right! Anything I can do to publicize this guy as a great artist is not enough!