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Happy Birthday, Marcel!

Photo: Eric Sutherland for the Walker Art Center

Photo: Eric Sutherland for the Walker Art Center

Generally considered the father of Conceptual art, Marcel Duchamp was born on this day in 1887. Although he dabbled in Cubism, Surrealism, and spearheaded the American Dada movement together with his friends Picabia and Man Ray, Duchamp rejected what he called “retinal pleasure,” in favor of more intellectual, subversive, and humorous works. His readymades, including Fountain (1917), were intended to poke fun at avant-garde art but ended up changing the direction of twentieth-century art.

Almost one hundred years later, some people are still outraged that a urinal could be deemed a work of art. For those confused about the state of contemporary art: blame Marcel Duchamp. And celebrate confusion!

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