Marcel Duchamp

(born July 28, 1887, Blainville, France — died Oct. 2, 1968, Neuilly) French artist and art innovator. In 1913 he caused a sensation at the Armory Show with his painting Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 (1912), which combined the principles of Cubism and Futurism. His irreverence for conventional aesthetic standards then led him to devise his famous ready-mades: in 1913 he exhibited Bicycle Wheel, which was simply an ordinary bicycle wheel displayed as a work of art, and in 1917 he exhibited a urinal he entitled Fountain. Intended as a derisive gesture against the excessive importance attached to works of art, the ready-mades ushered in an era when contemporary art became in itself a mixture of creation and criticism. In Paris in 1919 he established contact with the Dada group of artists, whose nihilistic ideas he had anticipated. During this period he exhibited a photograph of the Mona Lisa with a moustache and goatee added, a gesture that expressed the Dadaists' scorn for the art of the past. He greatly influenced the Surrealists, and his attitude toward art and society led to Pop art and other modern and postmodern movements. A legend in his lifetime, he is considered one of the leading spirits of 20th-century art.

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