Couple of Laundress's Aprons

Late Readymade
Original female version (closed)
Late Readymade
Original male version (closed)
Original Version:

1959, Paris
2 cloth and fur potholders
imitated, rectified readymade
1 male, 20.3 x 17.7 cm
1 female, 20.5 x 19.8 cm

Clearly associated with domestic duties, potholders are socially gendered objects at their core. And this was before Duchamp ever got his hands (and his mind) on them. Aids for preparing a hot meal (a traditionally female activity), they are generally termed feminine objects. When Duchamp decided to play with these potholders, he gendered them to apoint where the viewer cannot ignore it. The viewer often feels ashamed just looking at them, as if he is doing something wrong by seeing the "open" versions of each potholder's pubic area.

These potholders literally open and close. They are overtly sexual, with nothing subtle about their gender identification. This illustrates Duchamp's trend towards more overt sexuality in his later artwork, reaching its peak with his monumental piece Etant donnes (1946-66).

Original male version (open)
Original female version (open)

On November 9, 1959, Duchamp wrote Andre Breton: "I'm sending you two little aprons destined to protect the hands from the excessive heat of the pots and casseroles on the fire. One is male, the other female. They could be executed in Paris in a few days, for not much money, if the idea pleases you" (Schwarz 822).

Duchamp bought the original versions of these Readymades in a New York City shop. However, the original edition of twenty (numbered I-XX) were assembled in Paris by Mimi Parent for the deluxe version of the exhibition catalog for "Exposition Internationale de Surrealisme" at the Galerie Daniel Cordier, Paris (Schwarz 822).

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