The one and perhaps only hard fact that we possess regarding the story of Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain is its photo in The Blind Man No. 2, 1917, and the editorial on the facing page, titled “The Richard Mutt Case.” The photo is triply captioned “Fountain by R. Mutt,” “Photograph by Alfred Stieglitz,” and “THE EXHIBIT REFUSED BY THE INDEPENDENTS.” Historian and philosopher of art Thierry de Duve shall examine what kind of agency is involved in that triple “by” and revisit Duchamp’s intentions and motivations when he created the fictitious R. Mutt, manipulated Stieglitz, and set a trap for the Independents. He shall conclude with an invitation to art historians to abandon the “by” questions (attribution, etc.) and to focus on the “from” questions that arise when Fountain is seen less as a work of art than as the bearer of the news that the art world has radically changed.
Historian and philosopher of art Thierry de Duve is Evelyn Kranes Kossak Professor at Hunter College, City University of New York. His English publications include Pictorial Nominalism (1991), Kant After Duchamp (1996), Clement Greenberg Between the Lines (1996, 2010), Look—100 Years of Contemporary Art (2001), Sewn In the Sweatshops of Marx: Beuys, Warhol, Klein, Duchamp (2012), and Aesthetics at Large (Art, Ethics, Politics) (2018). Two volumes of his Essais datés, published in French by Mamco in Geneva, have appeared in the last few years: Vol. I, Duchampiana, in 2014, and Vol. II, Adresses, in 2016. He is presently finishing a book titled Duchamp’s Telegram, forthcoming from Reaktion Books, London, in 2021.
The Visiting Artists and Scholars Committee brings respected established and emerging practitioners in the arts to present public lectures, conduct one-on-one critiques, lead small seminars or reading discussions, and share informal meals with students. All VASC lectures are free and open to the public.