Auction of Duchamp's Readymades
By Cayla Lewis
posted: 01-08-09
Marcel Duchamp Fountain 1917
Image Source

In May 2002, according to the BBC News article Urinal Fails to Make a Splash, a company in New York held an auction of "a rare collection of Marcel Duchamp's famous 'readymade' conceptual art".  The work " sold for prices below expectations" and some of the items did not sell at all. The most famous of the works sold at the auction was Fountain, which  "sold for $1,185,000...short of its low estimate of $1.5m".  For fans of Duchamp's work, the first reaction to this news might be dissapointment that collectors  do not seem to value his work as much as was expected.  However, Duchamp's readymades are not as simple as other art objects such as paintings or sculptures.  Unlike these objects, the value of a work like Fountain does not lie in the object itself, but rather in the ideas which surround it.  Therefore, it would be impossible for any one collector to own the work in the same way someone can own a conventional art object, such as a painting.  Duchamp's works gain their meanting from the way they interact with society and the context in which they are displayed.  It is understandable that the works were not popular with  collectors, because their meaning derives from being displayed in museums and exhibitions, not in private collections.

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