Popular Culture/Visual Culture Activity
The Legacy of Duchamp
Sources and Resources
Participants learn about the influence of Marcel Duchamp’s ideas on the work of contemporary
artists. This activity could be used in the Walker Art Center galleries, Minneapolis Sculpture
Garden, or in the classroom with a selection of images from Art Collector. The artworks included
in the activity are suggestions only and instructors may choose different artworks to accompany
the discussion questions.
Setting the Scene
Provide participants with a brief description of Marcel Duchamp and some of his main
ideas. What was it about Duchamp’s work that so influences and still gains the respect of
many contemporary artists?
Using the following statements as an introduction, the tour will look at works that have
been influenced by Duchamp.
Joseph Beuys said: “Duchamp the artist was a good starting point.”
Robert Rauschenberg said: “I find [Marcel Duchamp’s] life and work a constant
inspiration…. His Bicycle Wheel has always struck me as one of the most beautiful
pieces of sculpture I’ve ever seen.”
On the tour, show works by contemporary artists who directly refer to Duchamp in their
work or whose work is influenced by Duchamp. When discussing each artwork, explain
how it connects to Duchamp’s work and ideas. Address how Duchamp’s idea about the
“readymade” has influenced artists of today.
What aspects of Duchamp’s work or ideas did each artist incorporate into his or her own
work? Why do you think so many artists look to Duchamp as an influence? Do you think
Duchamp’s ideas are still relevant and original today? Why or why not?
Although Marcel Duchamp was active as an artist almost 100 years ago, his influence
can still be seen in work by present-day artists. Among Duchamp’s ideas that we
discussed, or works of art we looked at, which do you think is the most radical? Why? Of
the artworks that we viewed, which one do you think seems to have been most closely
influenced by Duchamp? Since we began this tour, has your opinion about either the
work and ideas of Marcel Duchamp or the work of contemporary artists changed at all?
How? Do you think Duchamp’s readymades should be considered art? Why or why not?
Laminated photos of the following artworks by Marcel Duchamp:
The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even 1915–1923
Bottle Rack 1914
This tour would work well with the following works of art:
Robert Rauschenberg Trophy II (for Teeny and Marcel Duchamp) 1960
Nam June Paik TV Cello 1971
Sherrie Levine Fountain (after Marcel Duchamp: A.P.) 1991
Joseph Beuys Schlitten (Sled) 1969
Marcel Duchamp Boîte-en-Valise 1941/1966
Daniel Spoerri 31 Variations on a Meal: Eaten by Bruce Conner 1964
Works by Claes Oldenburg
Works by Andy Warhol
Works by Jasper Johns