Category Archives: Marcel Duchamp

If I Call It Art, It’s Art; or If I Hang It in a Museum, It’s Art

Marcel Duchamp? Janet Malcolm? Raul Gamboa? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The artist provocateur Marcel Duchamp proclaimed that he could transform a prosaic object into an objet d’art worthy of display in a museum. He famously accomplished this feat with a urinal he dubbed “Fountain” in 1917. See the picture above. Would you please help me to find a quotation encapsulating his viewpoint?

Quote Investigator: In 1968 the Museum of Modern Art in New York City presented a show titled “Dada, Surrealism, and Their Heritage”. An article in “Newsweek” mentioned two works by Duchamp and included a remark from the creator. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 1

By exhibiting such things as an ordinary bottle rack, Marcel Duchamp revealed the surprising beauty hidden in simple objects. He inserted marble cubes, a cuttlebone and a thermometer into a birdcage and called the result “Why Not Sneeze?” “Everything in life is art,” says 81-year-old Duchamp. “If I call it art, it’s art; or if I hang it in a museum, it’s art.”

The phrasing suggested that the words were spoken to a “Newsweek” reporter by Duchamp at the time of the show in 1968.

Below are two additional selected citations.

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  1. 1968 April 8, Newsweek, Dada at MOMA, Start Page 132, Quote Page 132, Column 2, Newsweek, New York. (Verified with scans)