Discovering Humanities


ControversialArt and Censorship:

MarcelDuchamp’s Fountain

Thefountain is an example of Duchamp’s artistic works which iswidely seen as an iconic piece of the twentieth century. Itconsisted of standard urinal, turned in all directions for exhibitionpurposes and was signed and dated ‘R. Mutt 1917’while painted inblack. Fountain caused great controversywhen it was first exhibited and still istoday with most people arguing that it is not art. Duchamp on theother hand, surely claims that it is (Duchamp, 2010).

Thereason fountain isregarded as an art is not due to its artist’s efforts, butdue to its selection Marcel Duchamp selected a urinal thatis an everyday utilitarian object and rotated it invariousdirections .He completed the art in 1917and by then was director ofthe Society of Independent Artists. This group claimed that theyaccepted any artistic work as long as the owner was willing to paythe membership fee. However, when Marcel Duchamp submitted his workto the said group, they rejected it. This in turncompelled him to quit his position as director and later wrotea newspaper explaining why his artisticwork was rejected and why he felt it wasunfair to do so (Duchamp, 2010).

Theoriginal Fountain is lost today with most scholars arguing that ithas been destroyed. Some argue that it hadmaybe been mistaken for being a typicalurinal. Duchamp claimed that there was no singleartistic movement who affiliated his work it is true howeverthat Duchamp’s artwork fits the Dada style thatrejected order and reason and embraced irrationality with hissupporting his fountain art by creating countless ready-made artworksfrom daily utilitarian objects (Duchamp, 2010).

Thecontroversial art had a great social contribution and wasstartedas an elaborate prank designed to create fun at the Americanavant-garde art. It proved to be the most influential artistic workof the 20thcentury but washowever rejectedwith the governmentnot being involvedin censoring the artwork(Duchamp,2010).


Thisis an art movement that emerged in Britain in the mid 1950s and inthe United States in late 1950s, presenting a significant challengeto the fine arts traditions by including images from popular culturesuch as news and advertising.Pop art employs mass culture aspect such as comic books and is areaction to the dominant ideas of expressionism and expansion of suchideas. It is similar to Dadadue to its utilization of images and found objects while using theimages of popular culture art. Itemphasizes kitschy or banal cultural elements more often through theuse of irony. Pop arts arealso associatedwith the use of rendering techniques or mechanical means by theartists (Shanes, 2009).

Creativeelements of popular culture which areoften producedworks of art should be considered as these are crucialand take imaginary forms thatarecurrently usedin advertising. Product logos and labelling featureprominently in the images chosen by the artists as these elementscan be used in structuring advertisement messages more appropriatelythus it is important to consider the elements of popular cultureproduced in various artistic works (Sayre, 2013).


Duchamp,M. (2010). MarcelDuchampworks: Fountain,Readymades of Duchamp, The Bride stripped bare by her bachelors,Nude descending the staircase, no. 2, the Bottle rack, L.H.O.O.Q.,Étant Donnés, Why not sneeze, Rose Sélavy?, Bicycle wheel,Apolinère Enameled.Memphis, Tennessee: Books LLC.

Sayre,H. (2013). Discoveringthe Humanities (2nd ed.).Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Shanes,E. (2009). Popart.New York, NY: Parkstone.