R Mutt’s Fountain – Marcel Duchamp

Date: 1917

Location: Centre Georges Pompidou – Paris, France

Style: Dada/Readymade


Created as a series of 17, Duchamp’s Fountain caused a stir within the art world. As one of the first pieces of  widely known Dada art, this urinal shocked the establishment and high culture.

Dada sought to invert what people thought they knew. This was particularly pertinent during the First World War, economic crisis of the ’30s and the Weimar period in Germany – things were already pretty confusing – the Dada artists wanted to make it clear quite how  mad things were.

Duchamp’s fountain was not truly his own… a friend and artistic contemporary of his had given him the original urinal so that he might exhibit her work under his name in order to escape ridicule for being a woman. This woman was Baroness Elsa von Freytag – Loringhoven a performance artist and poet.


But why R.Mutt …

This is in fact a play on the word ‘armut’ meaning poverty in German – something that was widespread during this period – particularly amongst experimentalist artists.

Once the artwork was assimilated into the art world many people tried to ‘engage’ with the urinal – including Brian Eno – the famous music producer, in order to get it back to its original use rather than as a celebrated piece of art.

A BBC poll found that Fountain is considered by many as the most influential artwork of the 20th century. Its just a pity that the woman who originally conceived the idea wasn’t given full credit – and still isn’t


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