Art Theory & Criticism: Unit 1 Activity 5


In 1917 Marcel Duchamp (1887 – 1968) signed a urinal as “R. Mutt 1917” and entitled it Fountain.

“[Duchamp] purchased a urinal from a sanitary ware supplier and submitted it – or arranged for it to be submitted – as an artwork by ‘R. Mutt’ to the newly established Society of Independent Artists that Duchamp himself had helped found and promote on the lines of the Parisian Salon des Indépendants (Duchamp had moved from Paris to New York in 1915). The society’s board of directors, who were bound by the Society’s constitution to accept all members’ submissions, took exception to Fountain, believing that a piece of sanitary ware – and one associated with bodily waste – could not be considered a work of art and furthermore was indecent (presumably, although this was not said, if displayed to women). Following a discussion and a vote, the directors present during the installation of the show at the Grand Central Palace (about ten of them according to a report in the New York Herald) narrowly decided on behalf of the board to exclude the submission from the Society’s inaugural exhibition that opened to the public on 10 April 1917. Arensberg and Duchamp resigned in protest against the board taking it upon itself to veto and effectively censor an artist’s work.” Source (Links to an external site.)

What to do

Undertake some research into the above issue and using DAIE, develop an evaluation about the art work.

What to submit

  • A detailed DAIE
  • 300 – 500 words including an illustration of the art work
  • Bibliography


This activity will be assessed against criteria 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.