There are even theories about whether Duchamp came up with the work at all—one account has him attributing the work to a female friend who sent him the urinal under the male pseudonym “R. Mutt,” which he then signed on it. Similarly, his famous quip that the only works of art America had contributed to the world were “her plumbing and her bridges” has been tentatively restored to its true author: our erstwhile Duchamp defender Beatrice Wood.
But to try and establish the true authorship of the Fountain is exactly the kind of quixotic undertaking that would have had Duchamp in stitches. Let’s take a moment to recall that Monsieur Duchamp took a urinal, turned it upside down, signed it “R. Mutt,” and submitted it to a salon; the pursuit of truth was decidedly not his quest.
Rather, the unanswered questions that Fountain provoked are precisely what contributed to its conceptual underpinnings and its enduring (and confounding) legacy.
Contemporary artists riff on Duchamp
Among the contemporary artists that have explored these questions by riffing on Duchamp’s work is
, with his Fractured Fountain (Not Duchamp Fountain 1917)
(2015). Made as an edition of eight works that directly reference Duchamp’s “original,” the work provides a perfect example of the way in which Duchamp exploded everything that came before.
Bidlo’s version is a lovingly handcrafted porcelain copy that he then smashed, reconstituted, and cast in bronze.