Virgil Abloh pays homage to iconic artist Marcel Duchamp in a new hoodie. The piece alludes to one of Duchamp’s earliest works — Fountain — which was a porcelain urinal gifted to him with the pseudonym “R. Mutt.” At the time, the inclusion of an everyday item that had no use as a form of art was unheard of, and when Duchamp submitted the piece to the Society of Independent Artists exhibition, Fountain was rejected. A few decades later, Duchamp reemerged among a throng of artists that defined avant-garde and made a name for conceptual art. Now, Duchamp is regarded among the likes of Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. Fountain celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.
Virgil Abloh’s hoodie boasts an “R. Mutt 1917” graphic, the same insignia upon the sculpture itself. On the back of the hoodie is an explanation and the words “Off-White™ c/o R.MUTT.” Unveiled on OFF-WHITE‘s Instagram page, the images were accompanied by a lengthy caption which you can read below.
Off-White™ c/o R.MUTT ~ A hundred years ago today, Marcel Duchamp, a French artist domiciled in New York, paid the entry fee for an exhibition organised by the Society of Independent Artists. Duchamp’s contribution to the show, titled Fountain, was a porcelain urinal he had purchased on April 2, 1917 and signed with the pseudonym R Mutt. When the show opened on April 10, 1917, Duchamp found his entry hidden away by scandalised organisers. Afterwards, the piece was lost, probably chucked out with the garbage. Although he protested the treatment meted out to his art, the episode was soon forgotten and he faded into relative obscurity.
Four decades later, Duchamp’s concerns found echoes among a new generation of artists looking to break away from dominant conventions. John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, among others, drew on his example in their own work, and by the time of his death in 1968, he had become a celebrated name within a small community of avant-garde visual artists, musicians and film-makers. His reputation has continued to grow since then, and when the British Broadcasting Company asked 500 leading artists, critics and historians to rank the most influential works of modern art, Fountain placed first, ahead of seminal paintings by Picasso and Matisse like Guernica and The Red Studio.
Modern art presents many obstacles to the lay public. A lot of it seems absurd, or lacking skill, or designed merely to shock. Duchamp’s Fountain was all of these. Understanding how it went from the garbage heap to the top of the art pile is a good way to comprehend debates surrounding contemporary art as a whole. ~ www.scroll.in