May 14, 2012
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The term found art—more commonly found object (French: objet trouvé) or readymade—describes art created from the undisguised, but often modified, use of objects that are not normally considered art, often because they already have a mundane, utilitarian function. Marcel Duchamp was the originator of this in the early 20th-century.
Found art derives significance from the designation placed upon it by the artist. The context into which it is placed (e.g. a gallery or museum) is usually also a highly relevant factor. The idea of dignifying commonplace objects in this way was originally a shocking challenge to the accepted distinction between what was considered art as opposed to not art. Although it is now widely accepted in the art world as a viable practice, it continues to arouse media and public hostility, as with the Tate Gallery's Turner Prize exhibition of Tracey Emin's My Bed, which consisted literally of her unmade and dishevelled bed.
Found art, however, has to have the artist's input, at the very least an idea about it, i.e. the artist's designation of the object as art, which is nearly always reinforced with a title. There is mostly also some degree of modification of the object, although not to the extent that it cannot be recognised. The modification may lead to it being designated a "modified", "interpreted" or "adapted" found object.
Marcel Duchamp coined the term readymade in 1915 to describe his found art. Duchamp assembled the first readymade, entitled Bicycle Wheel in 1913, the same time as his Nude Descending a Staircase was attracting the attention of critics at the International Exhibition of Modern Art. His Fountain, a urinal which he signed with the pseudonym "R. Mutt", shocked the art world in 1917. Bottle Rack is a bottle drying rack signed by Duchamp, and is considered to be the first "pure" readymade.
Research by Rhonda Roland Shearer indicates that Duchamp may have fabricated his found objects. Exhaustive research of mundane items like snow shovels and bottle racks in use at the time failed to reveal identical matches. The urinal, upon close inspection, is non-functional. However, there are accounts of Walter Arensberg and Joseph Stella being with Duchamp when he purchased the original Fountain at J. L. Mott Iron Works.