“It’s Art If I Say So”

Marcel Duchamp’s Legacy in the Hirshhorn Collection

Top portion of hat rack floating against white background with shadow

Found ObjectS

One of the most influential artistic ideas of the twentieth century was Marcel Duchamp’s readymade. Duchamp proposed the radical notion that an artist, rather than making something, can select a commercially fabricated everyday object and declare it an artwork. Simply by the act of choosing the object, the artist removes it from its utilitarian context and situates it in the realm of art. With works such as Hat Rack, Duchamp overturned longstanding conventions about the role of the artist, the significance of craftsmanship and aesthetics, and the hierarchy that valued unique artworks over reproductions. The readymade also exemplified Duchamp’s core belief that art should engage the mind rather than merely the eye. This selection of artworks offers a glimpse of the innumerable strategies that artists have employed in the years since Duchamp’s readymade first offered its audacious challenge to conventional media and craftsmanship.