Unauthorized Fountains Make Waves
By Scott Martin
posted: 03-25-10
(1964 edition, often popularly attributed to 1917)
Image Source
The philosophical ramifications of Marcel Duchamp's estate objecting to the circulation of unauthorized and unsigned copies of the epochal Fountain by Arturo Schwarz are not lost on The Economist. The often-wry weekly journal notes that while Schwarz, who sold a limited edition of 12 hand-crafted replicas of the original urinal, claims that the newly discovered copies were created under Duchamp's supervision, collectors do not relish the mystique of their readymades being diluted by unsigned knockoffs that don't even function as plumbing.

More deeply, the question resolves to determining the point at which the Duchampian aura transubstantiates plumbing into art. Noted dealer Francis Naumann says the crucial moment is the signature; if so, the new editions are barely forgeries. Daniella Luxembourg is more open to considerations of objects that were in Duchamp's "vicinity" -- that enjoy some associational link to the artist -- as worthy of collection as "relics." It is also possible that Schwarz, known as a great friend of Duchamp, is propagating these objects as a sort of tribute to the master of appropriation. And in any event, the original is lost.


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