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Spotlight Artist: Dada Movement - Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968)

Bicycle Wheel, 1951 (third version, after lost original of 1913), metal wheel mounted on painted wood stool,

  • FIRST: watch the video below. Along with the "criteria for art" that you considered with AS #14, consider now the "purposes for art" as explained in the video.

  • NEXT: go on to learn more about the artist, Marcel Duchamp, so that you can consider the way that he approached the definition of "art."

From Metropolitan Museum's Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History:

Duchamp has had a huge impact on twentieth-century art. By World War I, he had rejected the work of many of his fellow artists as “retinal” art, intended only to please the eye. Instead, Duchamp wanted, he said, “to put art back in the service of the mind.”

With Bicycle Wheel (1913), the first readymade, Duchamp moved toward a creative process that was antithetical to artistic skill. He wanted to distance himself from traditional modes of painting in an effort to emphasize the conceptual value of a work of art, seducing the viewer through irony and verbal witticisms rather than relying on technical or aesthetic appeal. The object became a work of art because the artist had decided it would be designated as such. Bicycle Wheel consisted of a fork and the wheel of a common bicycle that rested upon an ordinary stool. The mundane, mass-produced, everyday nature of these objects is precisely why Duchamp chose them (later works would include a snow shovel, a urinal (Philadelphia Museum of Art), and a bottlerack (Philadelphia Museum of Art), to name a few). As a result, he ensured that the fruits of modern industrial life would be a fertile resource in the production of works of art.

Essential Questions

AFTER CAREFULLY REVIEWING THE RESOURCES ASSIGNED ABOVE: Answer the following questions completely and with specificity to the provided resources, previous Artist Spotlight information, personal reflection, and additional research as needed:

  1. ​ART has served many different purposes over the course of history. First, list at least three of those reasons as specifically mentioned in the videos. Then, explain the purpose(s) that YOU feel is the most important.

  2. Review your answer above AS WELL AS your criteria for "art" as listed for AS #14. Using that information, explain how conceptual work like "Bicycle Wheel" aligns with your understanding and appreciation of ART.

  3. Finally, write YOUR definition of ART.


CURIOUS? Here is even more information:

  • How Duchamp's Urinal Changed Art Forever

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