Marcel Duchamp exhibition in Malmö (and how Gallery 291 got involved in the Richard Mutt Case)

Marcel Duchamp
Fountain, 1917
© Succession Marcel Duchamp/BUS 2011
Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) emphasised the importance of the concept in a work of art. Moderna Museet has one of the world’s finest collections of Marcel Duchamp’s art, and fourteen of these works are now being shown at Moderna Museet Malmö. Malmö 19 March 2011 - 11 September 2011

and this is how Alfred Stieglitz and Gallery 291 got involved in "The Richard Mutt Case"

"Marcel Duchamp was a member of the Exhibitions Committee of the Independent Society of Artists in New York City when, in 1917, said Committee elected to hold a JURY-FREE EXHIBITION: this meant that there would be no juror, no one authority deciding what could or could not enter (what was or was not art): anyone could enter, and anyone could enter anything, and it would be exhibited.

Without the knowledge of any of the members of the Independent Society of Artists, Duchamp retrieved a men’s urinal, signed it “R. Mutt,” and sent it into the show from Pennsylvania with a letter signed “Richard Mutt,” signaling the title of the work as “Fountain.”

At the next meeting of the Independent Society of Artists, “Fountain” was dismissed as inadmissible to the show. Duchamp protested that the work should be admitted and exhibited because of the promise and the premise of the jury-free show (that anyone could enter, and that anyone could enter anything). The other artists still refused, and Duchamp resigned in protest.

In his resignation letter, Duchamp wrote: “Whether Mr. Mutt with his own hands made the fountain or not has no importance. He chose it. He took an ordinary article of life, placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under the new title and point of view and created a new thought for that object.”

- from a "DEBATE PAPER - Due in class, Wednesday, November 28" at the Depauw University.

Duchamp then took “Fountain” to Gallery 291 (a gallery run by the photographer Alfred Steiglitz which exhibited work by avant-garde artists such as Picasso and Matisse) and, presenting the piece as the work of one R. Mutt, asked Stieglitz to photograph it.

Stieglitz did so, and published the photograph in the periodical Camera Work. Stieglitz then told him to get that “thing” out of his gallery and by all means throw it away. Duchamp did, having proven his point (to himself and no one else).

The Independent Society of Artists never guessed that the artist of “Fountain” was Marcel Duchamp. Indeed no one knew, until Duchamp himself told the story in the 1950s. The idea behind “Fountain” then fully seized the imagination of many and Duchamp was asked to make “Fountain” again. Not only did he make dozens of “Fountains”, he also always signed them “R. Mutt, 1917.”

- Mr Urbano