Duchamp's urinal douses rivals in British art poll

2nd December 2004, Comments 0 comments

LONDON, Dec 2 (AFP) - In a result that probably confirms many sceptics' prejudices about modern art, a 1917 men's urinal has been voted the most influential artwork of the 20th century in a poll of the great and good of Britain's art world.

LONDON, Dec 2 (AFP) - In a result that probably confirms many sceptics' prejudices about modern art, a 1917 men's urinal has been voted the most influential artwork of the 20th century in a poll of the great and good of Britain's art world.

The white porcelain urinal was mounted upside down in a New York Gallery by French artist Marcel Duchamp, who in one of the very earliest examples of conceptualism, declared it was art simply because he stated this was so.

According to the survey of 500 movers and shakers in British art, the work, called "Fountain", is more important that anything produced by the likes of Picasso and Matisse.

Duchamp's work was the overwhelming winner of the poll, undertaken ahead of next week's annual Turner Prize, Britain's leading modern art award, British newspapers reported on Thursday.

In second place came Pablo Picasso's "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" of 1907, regarded by many as the origin point of modern art, with Andy Warhol's iconic pop art screen prints of Marilyn Monroe from 1962 third.

"The choice of Duchamp's Fountain as the most influential work of modern art ahead of works by Picasso and Matisse comes as a bit of a shock," admitted Simon Wilson, a British art expert hired by the poll organisers to explain the results.

"But it reflects the dynamic nature of art today and the idea that the creative process that goes into a work of art is the most important thing - the work itself can be made of anything and can take any form."

Even without such polls, the often unorthodox works honoured by the Turner Prize tend to launch an annual debate in British newspapers as to what is, or is not, art.

Among the nominees this year are a pair of artists who digitally recreated Al-Qaeda head Osama bin Laden's former home in Afghanistan.

Last year's winner, Grayson Perry, was typically attention-grabbing: a burly man with a fondness for oversized party dresses and pigtails, his delicate ceramic vases are decorated with often disturbing scenes.

The Daily Telegraph, often a despairing conservative voice on arts matters, was unsurprised at Duchamp's victory in the poll.

"In this strange world where babies are made in test tubes and people pay to drink water in restaurants, the result is perhaps not all that astonishing," its arts correspondent sighed wearily.

In the poll, "Guernica", Picasso's Spanish Civil War masterpiece of 1937, was voted fourth, followed by "The Red Studio" by Henri Matisse, from 1911.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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