After a few hours of strolling through the Philadelphia Museum of Art we were getting to the end of our time there. It was my friends time in this art museum, her first time in any art museum actually, and she had been enjoying everything we had seen. Before we left, I begged her and my mom to go to the modern art section, even though most people don’t enjoy that section much.
My heart raced with excitement as we neared the piece I had been waiting to show my friend. As she stared at the piece with great disappointment, my face broke into a huge smile. She looked at me and said, “I just don’t understand how a toilet, not even made by the artist, can be considered art.”
Marcel Duchamp’s famous piece, The Fountain stared back at us.
No matter how many times I see this piece it always makes me laugh. So I laughed and smiled and told her, “it is art because Duchamp said it was and it is art because it is here in the museum.” Now this was a few months ago and me and my friend still argue over this piece.
Her argument is that the artist did not actually craft this piece so how can it be considered art. I like her argument because she is not stuck on the fact that it is a toilet. I appreciate that because she has accepted that art doesn’t have to be a beautiful landscape to be art, she is just upset that the piece wasn’t made by the hand of the artist.
I argue with her that the piece not being crafted by the artist is part of the whole point. Post-modernism took the notion of modernism and flipped it on its back. Modernism had a focus on the single, male- genius artist, who alone would create beautiful masterpieces. Post-modernism says there is no such thing as a single genius artist, that someone can just be an artist for having ideas and collaborating and creating ideas with others. Post-modernism also looks at anything that has a design as art. Due to the fact that someone designed that toilet makes it art.
Duchamp challenges people’s perception’s of art and no matter how many people come and scoff at his piece and say it is not art, at the end of the day Duchamp got his toilet into the Philadelphia Museum of Art and no one can take that away from him. I admire that. Who is to say what is art and what isn’t?