Marcel Duchamp, Bicycle Wheel, 1913 (authorised reproduction 1951, original lost)
The means of transport link is a bit tenuous here but I seem to have been writing about a lot of works that are in some way related to the idea of the readymade or assemblage so not mentioning Marcel Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel would seem like a strange omission. This is a sculpture so simple it’s hard to see it as something that predated minimalism by several decades. Whenever I stop to really think about Duchamp and the idea of the readymade I’m astonished that it took just fifty years to get from the outrage that greeted Édouard Manet’s 1963 painting Le déjeurner sur l’herbe, often seen as heralding the start of Modern Art, to a bicycle wheel on a white stool being declared to be art. That it predated the formation of Dada, a movement with which Duchamp was associated, with its ideas of an anti-art in response to the horrors of the first world war also seems extraordinary.
In 1917, Marcel Duchamp bought a urinal, signed it in an assumed name of R. Mutt – the urinal had been bought from the J L Mott Ironworks – and submitted, with the title Fountain, it to the Society of Independent Artists in New York for inclusion in their annual exhibition. The rules stated that work by any artist who paid the fee would be accepted but the committee rejected Fountain. Much debate ensued. Eventually the board of the Society of Independent Artists – of which Duchamp was a member, but who in the main didn’t know he had submitted the work – decided that the work would be hidden from view for the show. Duchamp resigned in protest.
Fountain was photographed by Alfred Stieglitz but was subsequently lost. I think the prevailing view is that Stieglitz threw it out after making the picture.