CONCEPTUAL FINE ARTS

When Marcel Duchamp explained how a ready-made is to be made


Stefano Pirovano

Here is a transcription and English version of the letter by which Marcel Duchamp founded the ‘ready-made’ practice. It all started as a gift to his sister Suzanne.

Everybody knows what Marcel Duchamp’s “ready made” is in art, but who has ever read the original document where this extraordinary aesthetic discovery was explained for the very first time by its author himself? So, enjoy our transcription and english translation of the letter the artist wrote to his sister Suzanne on January the 16th in 1916, keeping in mind that this document is available and shareable on-line at the Archives of American Art, here is the link.

Marcel Duchamp, letter to Suzanne Duchamp, 16th January 2019 (French).

15 janvier environ.

[…]

Merci énormément pour t’occuper de toutes mes affaires.

– mais pourquoi n’aurais tu pas pris mon

atelier pour habiter ?? J’y pense juste maintenant

– mais je pense que peut-etre ça ne t’irait pas.

En tous cas, le bail finit 15 juillet et si tu

reprenais, ne le fais qu’en proposant à

mon proprio de louer 3 mois par 3 mois, comme

cela se passe ordinairement, il acceptera

surement. Peut etre père ne serait pas mécontent

de regagner un terme si c’est possible que tu

quittes la Condamine pour 15 avril. But

I don’t know anything about your

intentions and je ne veux que te

suggerer quelquechose.

Maintenant si tu es montée chez moi tu as vu

dans l’atelier une roue de bicyclette et un

porte bouteilles. J’avais acheté cela comme

une sculpture toute faite. Et j’ai une intention

à propos de ce dit porte bouteille: Ecoute.

Ici, à N.Y., j’ai acheté des objets

dans le même gout et je les traite comme

des “readymade” tu sais assez d’anglais

pour comprendre le sens de “tout-fait”

que je donne à ces objets. Je les signe

et je leur donne une inscription en

anglais. Je te donne qques exemples:

j’ai par esemple une grande pelle à neige

sur laquelle j’ai inscrit en bas: In advance

of the broken arm. Traduction française: En

avance du bras cassé. Ne t’escrimes

pas trop à comprendre dans le sens

romantique ou impressioniste ou cubiste.

– Cela n’a aucun rapport avec;

Un autre “readymade” s’appelle “Emergency

in favor of twice”. traduction française

possible: Danger (crise) en faveur de 2 fois.

Tout ce préambule pour te dire:

Prends pour toi ce porte bouteille. J’en fais

un “Readymade” à distance. Tu inscriras en

bas et à l’intérieur du cercle du bas en petites lettres

peintes avec un pinceau à l’hile en couleur

blanc d’argent la inscription que je vais

te donner ci après. et tu signeras de la

même écriture comme suit:

[d’après] Marcel Duchamp.

Marcel Duchamp, letter to Suzanne Duchamp, 16th January 2019 (English).

Around January, 15th
[…]

Thank you so much for taking care of all my matters,

why haven’t you moved into my atelier?? I’ve just thought about it,

but maybe it wouldn’t suit you. Anyway, the contract expires on july, 15th and in case you

want it, you could suggest

my owner to rent it for three months in three months, how

it is generally done, and he will certainly accept it. Perhaps … he would be glad

to claw back a rent-term if you manage

to leave Condamine street by April, 15th. But

I am not aware of your plans

and I don’t want to give you any suggestions.

Now, If you came up to mine, you should see a bicycle wheel and a

bottle carrier. I had bought it as

an already-made sculpture. And this is my plan

about this bottle carrier: Listen.

Here, in N.Y., I have bought some objects

of similar taste and I will treat them

as “readymade”, your english is good enough

to grasp the meaning of “already-made”

which I confer to these objects. I sign them

and I then apply an english inscription.

Let me give you some examples:

En avance du bras cassé.

I have, for instance, a snow shovel, on the bottom of which

I inscribed: in advance of the broken arm. French translation:
Don’t force yourself

to interpret them in a romantic or impressionist or cubist way for that matter.

This doesn’t have any relationship with them;

another “readymade” is called “Emergency in favor of twice”. Possible french translation:

Danger (crise) en faveur de 2 fois.
This very preface simply to tell you: take with you the bottle carrier. I will do

a distant “readymade.” You shall inscribe

at the inside bottom of the circle with small letters

painted with an oil-brush,

white and silver colored, the inscription I’m writing

here below and you shall sign it with

the same writing as follows:

[d’apres] Marcel Duchamp.

June 19, 2019