Curatorial Studies 12:
   The 100th Anniversary of Duchamp's Fountain

Alfred Stieglitz, Fountain (photograph of assisted readymade by Marcel Duchamp), 1917.
in The Blind Man 2, May 1917.
Alfred Stieglitz, Fountain
(photograph of assisted
readymade by Marcel Duchamp),
in The Blind Man 2, May 1917.

This year, 2017, is the 100th anniversary of Fountain. Let's all celebrate!

What an embarrassing thought. So embarrassing, in fact, that I feel like plunging my face in a urinal.

This is without question a milestone year, marking 100 years since a men's urinal was submitted as an artwork, and after being rejected by the exhibition committee, entered the annals of 20th century art. In other words, this is a brazen attempt by the museum to celebrate the anniversary of an art work that was once cast aside for having nothing to do with art. After a century, the original destructive power of the urinal has completely vanished. In that sense, the only thing that we can really be sure about is its obsolescence. But assuming that the urinal is still a shining example of artistic expression, what kind of statement or appeal is the museum trying to make with it? (I thought up a bunch of excuses to fend off this type of criticism, but in the end I tossed them all out!)

This is the kind of situation where, having already planned an exhibition around a urinal, it doesn't make much sense to start of with a barrage of self-criticism. This is another example of the uncomfortable nature of Fountain (even though an uncomfortable urinal isn't much of a urinal). No matter how much we are willing to accept the equation "urinal=art work," a vague sense of uneasiness persists – a lack of confidence in the evidence and the feeling that we might actually be wrong. While admitting that a urinal isn't really art, what makes us so damn sure about it? This is the sense of dread that suddenly passes through your mind. There's something about this object that makes us lose our presence of mind.

It's just a urinal, but it drove a permanent wedge into 20th century art. Our only options are to trip over it and get mad, use it as a springboard and jump up to something else, or ignore it and walk on by like it doesn't exist. In this exhibition, some people will be drawn to (trip over?) the wedge, stand there in front of it, carefully observe it, unearth the area around it, and play around with it.

Unfortunately, since this is a museum, you can't modify or even touch the urinal (sure, the caption says, "Please touch," but that's just the title of the work). So as you look at the exhibit, please join the curators and imagine playing around with the work in your head. And I would be especially happy if on your way out, you stop into the restroom, and think, "Does this mean I'm doing my business in a work of art?"

Hirayoshi Yukihiro
Co-curator / Associate Professor
Kyoto Institute of Technology Museum and Archives

List of Works

Curatorial Studies 12: The 100th Anniversary of Duchamp's Fountain
Case 2: He CHOSE it. (PDF)


Collection Gallery, The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto


Hirayoshi Yukihiro
Makiguchi Chinatsu (Associate Curator)

Exhibition date

April 19 (Wed.), 2017–March 11 (Sun), 2018

  • April 19 (Wed.) – June 11 (Sun.)
    Case 1: Marcel Duchamp sent a urinal to the "First Annual Exhibition" in New York at the age of 29.
    Curated by Hirayoshi Yukihiro
    List of works (PDF)
  • June 14 (Wed.) – August 6 (Sun.)
    Case 2: He CHOSE it.
    Curated by Fujimoto Yukio (Artist)
    List of works (PDF)
  • August 9 (Wed.) – October 22 (Sun.)
    Case 3: The Flying Fountain(s)
    Curated by Kohmoto Shinji (former Chief Curator of the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto)
  • Case 4: October 25 (Wed.) – December 24 (Sun.) TBA
  • Case 5: January 5 (Fri.) – March 11 (Sun.) TBA


The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto

Related Talks and Lectures:

  • Case 1: Gallery Talk by Hirayoshi Yukihiro
    Date: Saturday, May 20     2:00PM – 3:00PM
    Venue: Collection Gallery
  • Case 2: Lecture by Fujimoto Yukio
    Date: Friday, June 23     6:00PM – 7:30PM
    Venue: 1F Auditorium
  • Case 3: Lecture by Kohmoto Shinji
    Date: Saturday, September 2     6:00PM – 7:30PM
    Venue: 1F Auditorium

Publicity materials

flyer  PDF(4MB)
White / Black / Red

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