Fri, Dec 03, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Duchamp urinal voted greatest modern art work


Marcel Duchamp's famous 1917 work, Fountain, named the most influential modern art work of all time.


A humble porcelain urinal -- reclining on its side, and marked with a false signature -- has been named the world's most influential piece of modern art, knocking Picasso and Matisse from their traditional positions of supremacy.

Marcel Duchamp's Fountain, created in 1917, has been interpreted in innumerable different ways, including as a reference to the female sexual parts.

However, what is clear is the direct link between Duchamp's "readymade," as the artist called it, and the conceptual art that dominates today.

According to art expert Simon Wilson: "The Duchampian notion that art can be made of anything has finally taken off. And not only about formal qualities, but about the `edginess' of using a urinal and thus challenging bourgeois art."

The Duchamp came out top in a survey of 500 artists, curators, critics and dealers commissioned by Gordon's, the sponsor of the UK-based Turner prize. Different categories of respondents chose markedly different works, with artists in particular plumping overwhelmingly for Fountain.

"It feels like there is a new generation out there saying, 'Cut the crap -- Duchamp opened up modern art'," said Wilson.

He said that it was "something of a shock" that Pablo Picasso was not top, particularly since, he argued, the artist's cubist constructions of 1912 to 1914 were Duchamp's "jumping-off point."

However, Picasso has not been totally erased: Les Demoiselles d'Avignon and Guernica were second and third in the survey.

Wilson said: "Les Demoiselles was the beginning of cubism, and cubism was the most influential formal innovation in modern art. This is the single work to which we can pin the origins of modern art."

Of Guernica -- the artist's unflinching depiction of the horrors of the Spanish civil war -- Wilson said: "Picasso re-established that art could be modern and still deal with historical events, which had been junked by impressionism."

Andy Warhol's Marilyn triptych -- with its resonances of celebrity, death and tragedy -- was named the fourth most influential work, and Henri Matisse's The Red Studio, the fifth.

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