Hat rack is one of Duchamp’s Ready-mades. The most famous of these I think is Fountain, which is a urinal ripped out of the wall. This is not the sort of “art” I typically appreciate. In fact, I’m pretty sure Duchamp was a master at getting museums and galleries to do anything because it was considered fashionable.
Still. You’ve got to admire consistency. And the second link above – the one that shows pictures of his studio and talks about his exhibitions – is really worth looking at. The Hat rack itself is suspended from the ceiling and casts a shadow not unlike a spider:
The small photographs reveal that the shiny porcelain urinal on view is not in the bathroom (although there might be another one there), or even tucked in a corner—it’s hung over a doorway. The disorder of the room might appear careless, except that a urinal simply doesn’t get up there by accident. Duchamp’s snow shovel is not casually leaning against a wall waiting for use—it is suspended from the ceiling. And his coatrack lies inconveniently and ridiculously in the middle of the room, nailed to the floor. Selected objects in chosen positions.
I’m guessing that there’s a mimicry of nature occurring in the studio. That snow shovel is more than likely going to reflect light; trees grow anywhere and don’t move easily; yeah, I don’t know what to do with a urinal over the doorway, either, although my car gets hit with an awful lot of bird poop.
The exhibitions emphasize interactivity and the tangible. As gimmicky as they are, there’s something to it. I often feel artists that don’t take full advantage of gallery space are wasting time. If you’ve got the space, going over the top or being pointedly understated is a good idea. Don’t get me wrong – I’d hate being coated with coal dust in some kind of reversal of earth and sky:
Duchamp’s interventions are quite simple, but radical. In his official capacity as “générateur-arbitre,” he turns the elegantly appointed eighteenth-century interior into a darkened “grotto,” covering the ornate moldings, ceiling, and bank of lights with what he announces as “1,200” suspended coal sacks. He installs an iron brazier in the center of the main hall and hangs artworks on uprooted department store revolving doors. The ceiling undulates, the walls are blackened, and coal dust invariably falls onto the finery of the exhibition’s guests.
Spare me. Then again, the care he puts into boxed facsimiles of his work is just incredible. It’s like he’s trying to outdesign the design crowd; you should really go to the “Exhibitions” link above and see how beautiful the miniature retrospectives are. One thing about being an artist in any age is you have to be productive. Keep producing and just see what works. One wonders how much more true that is for an age with an advanced industrial economy, one where museums think of their acquisitions in terms of visitors and dollars.