Marcel Duchamp arrived in the United States less than two years prior to the creation of Fountain and had become involved with Dada, an anti-rational, anti-art cultural movement, in New York City. According to one version, the creation of Fountain began when, accompanied by artist Joseph Stella and art collector Walter Arensberg, he purchased a standard Bedfordshire model urinal from the J. L. Mott Iron Works, 118 Fifth Avenue. The artist brought the urinal to his studio at 33 West 67th Street, reoriented it to a position 90 degrees from its normal position of use, and wrote on it, "R. Mutt 1917". According to another version, Fountain is the result of a complex collaboration. In a 1917 letter to his sister, Duchamp himself credits a female friend with the idea, as he writes to Suzanne Duchamp: "One of my female friends who had adopted the pseudonym Richard Mutt sent me a porcelain urinal as a sculpture." Duchamp never identified his collaborator, but two candidates have been proposed as collaborators. First, the Dadaist Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, whose scatological aesthetics are more in line with the choice of a urinal as art than Duchamp’s; and second, Louise Norton, who contributed an essay to The Blind Man discussing Fountain.
Since 'Dada' did not start until 1916 in Zurich, it is hard to believe that Duchamp became involved with Dada two years prior to Fountain, 1915. Rhonda Roland Shearer in the online journal Tout-Fait (2000) has concluded that the photograph is a composite of different photos, while other scholars such as William Camfield in his book Fountain of 1989 have never been able to match the urinal shown in the photo to any urinals found in in the catalogues of the time period.
At the time Duchamp was a board member of the Society of Independent Artists. After much debate by the board members (most of whom did not know Duchamp had submitted it) about whether the piece was or was not art, Fountain...
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