Readymade Art: What Makes an Everyday Object an Objet d'Art Chatelaine's Antiques Collectibles Appraisals


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Chatelaine's Antiques & Appraisals Magazine > Fine Art > Expert Tip: Readymade Art: What Makes an Everyday Object an Objet d'Art

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Readymade Art:

 What Makes an Everyday Object an Objet d'Art

Found art, generally defined, is artwork made from everyday objects taken out of one context and put into another.

The first publicly displayed example was Marcel Duchamp's 1917 piece Fountain a bathroom urinal turned on its side.

Found art pieces aren't appreciated for their physical qualities, but for their meaning and for the artist's creativity.

Duchamp even created a special name for his works: "readymade" art. Zic says that when Duchamp unveiled Fountain right after World War I, the banality of the piece fit a melancholy mood around the futility of war.

Found or "readymade" art by artists noted for their experimentation can fetch large prices at auction. Sotheby's sold Fountain in 1999 for $1,762,500.

The history of a found art piece plays an especially large roll in determining its value:

  • Found art isn't often considered beautiful. Why do people collect it?
    Avant Garde art has always had a market. It may be a small niche, but the market is strong. There're always people who enjoy being on the edge, looking for that shock value.

  • What makes one found piece more valuable than another?
    It's pretty easy to take a urinal out of a bathroom, put it in another context, and call it art. But only Duchamp's urinal is worth anything. You have to question the originality and creativity of any others.

  • Why is provenance so important?
    The quality and effectiveness of many abstract pieces don't stand up over the years, without knowing the history. A good, unsigned work may sell for $100 at auction, but sign it, and it will sell for $1,000. In fact, most galleries won't even touch a found piece without a provenance.


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