But Is it art?

It all began, more or less, with a white porcelain urinal, signed R. Mutt and dated 1917. Titled Fountain, the object was submitted under pseudonym by the French artist Marcel Duchamp to the first annual exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists. Though it had been announced that the exhibition would be neither juried nor censored, Fountain was rejected on the grounds that it was “by no definition a work of art.” The subsequent spark of interest in the object and the theoretical issues it provoked, however, ensured Fountain a significant place in the history of Modern art.

Now Fountain is back in the news, the subject of contemporary artist Pierre Pinoncelli’s most recent caper. The artist used a small hammer to hit the object, into which he had previously urinated during a 1993 exhibition. Would the older French artist welcome the younger one’s attempt to destroy his Fountain as pushing the boundaries of the discipline, or would he just be upset that someone peed in his art? Does art have to be an object, like Fountain or a Titian painting, or can it be an event or "happening"?

Decide for yourself when the new Taschen book, Conceptual Art arrives on our shelves. Or, for instant gratification, peruse our current holdings on Marcel Duchamp and Conceptual Art.