Encounters with Duchamp's 'Fountain'
On a visit to Tate Modern I thought it might be fun to do a study of Duchamp's 'Fountain', a piece of 'readymade' sculpture which the Tate quotes as topping a poll of 500 art experts in the UK to be the single most influential piece of art created in the 20th century.
I was keen to see what the galleristas at the Tate would make of it, so I sat on a convenient bench for about an hour and photographed the passers by.
The work itself was submitted by Duchamp, under the guise of R Mutt (Mott was the maker of the sanitary ware), to the inaugural exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists in New York. A group that Duchamp had himself helped to found. The works submitted by members were supposed to be hung without reservation, but the directors of the society present during the hanging decided to exclude the urinal as not fitting to be shown on the grounds of both art and decency. Duchamp resigned from the society and retrieved the urinal which was photographed by Stieglitz. It was then believed to have been taken back to Duchamp's studio but was lost at some later date. So the Fountain in the Tate is actually a reproduction dating from 1964.
No one took much interest in me as I worked on my bench. I wanted to try and get the faces of people actually looking through the box, with the sculpture in sharp focus but the faces not. I did broaden this at some points to get reactions from people 'out of the box'.
The first picture I took in portrait mode head on, this is when I conceived the idea. After that they are all in landscape mode looking in the same direction. The adults normally looked pretty underwhelmed by this iconic artwork, but it made the children smile.