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Duchamp and The Fountain

In 1917, three men gathered for lunch in New York. They were American painter Joseph Stella, Walter Arensberg, an art collector, and Marcel Duchamp, a French artist. After the meal, they went to a plumbing on Fifth Avenue, where Duchamp selected a porcelain urinal and bought it. When he returned to his studio he turned it 180 degrees and signed it as "R. MUTT 1917" deciding that it was his new work of art known as Fountain.

The context for the purchase and denomination of Fountain was an exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists. It was made to show works of any person, subject to a $1 membership fee and $5 annual fee. Duchamp himself, as a famous foreign artist, was on the board, as were several American painters and art world figures.

This presentation was defined in the press reports of the time as a "bathroom appliance," it was signed and dated, but was it a work of art? why yes or why not?

These questions were largely Duchamp's technique. Ask seemingly innocuous questions - with the underlying implications of "Do you really like it?" "Why do you like it?" "Are you sure what it is?"

George Bellows, a leading painter of realistic persuasion and also a member of the board of directors of the Society of Independent Artists, was outraged to see Fountain's presentation as well as much of the board that did not see it fully correct even though it had paid the correct registration fee. Eventually, the board voted in favor of not showing Fountain what caused a reasonably indignant Duchamp.

Later, Alfred Stieglitz, an American photographer of German-Jewish origin, who during his fifty-year career struggled to make photography an art form at the level of painting and sculpture, photographed the work or toilet in question, making its image the only remaining record of the original object. It was reproduced with an anonymous manifesto in an avant-garde magazine called The Blind Man. The accompanying text made a crucial statement for modern art: "Whether Mr. Mutt made the fountain with his own hands or not is of no importance. He chose it. He took an article from life, placed it in such a way that its useful meaning disappeared under the new title and point of view - he created a new thought for that object. Thanks to this publication, and its initial scandal, it was what made Fountain's already recognized work of art famous.

So much so that, with the approval of more than 500 recognized artists, Duchamp's famous work is chosen as the most revolutionary piece, even ahead of any work by Picasso, as the most influential work of the 20th century. As for the original, Stieglitz is said to have thrown it away shortly after taking the important photograph.

The object became a work considered very beautiful with an absolutely brilliant movement, which combined all conventional ideas about art. Duchamp has been compared to Leonardo da Vinci, as a profound philosopher-artist.