Duchamp's Fountain

an introduction

Art critics and avant-garde thinkers see the Duchamp urinal as an important landmark in 20th-century artwork.  Some believe Duchamp’s Fountain was originally created by Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven. The urinal artwork was shot in Alfred Stieglitz’s studio after its removal.

marcel duchamp

Duchamp was a sculptor, painter, and writer known for his work in Dada, Cubism, and Conceptual art. He is one of the three artists who contributed to the breakthroughs in the plastic arts in the early 20th century.

marcel duchamp

Through subversive anti-art, Duchamp questioned traditional thinking about artistic processes and criticized the rising art market.

studying the work

Duchamp was involved in the formation of an anti-established art, proto-Dada social scene in New York City alongside Man Ray, Francis Picabia, and Beatrice Wood.


Duchamp began working on the piece after purchasing a conventional model urinal. He carried it to his workshop, turned it 90 degrees from its initial position, and inscribed “R. Mutt 1917” on it.


The artist picked an everyday object, eliminated its typical value by giving it a new label, and gave the thing a new purely aesthetic meaning from this perspective.


Duchamp did not show simply any ready-made object. His message was apparent when he chose the urinal: Art seems to be something you urinate on.


Duchamp was clear that he intended to “de-deify” the artist. The readymades offer an alternative to rigid either-or aesthetic ideas.


Several performers sought to add to the sculpture by urinating in it. Kendell Geers, a South African-born artist, gained worldwide attention in 1993 when he peed into the Duchamp urinal during an exhibition in Venice.