Art Institute of Chicago Announced Acquisition of Marcel Duchamp’s Readymade Bottle Rack

Tuesday, February 13, 2018
Art Institute of Chicago Announced Acquisition of Marcel Duchamp’s Readymade Bottle Rack

The Art Institute of Chicago announced today a collection-changing acquisition of Marcel Duchamp’s boundary breaking readymade Bottle Rack (1914/59). Signed by Duchamp in 1960 for its owner—a young Robert Rauschenberg—this ever-provocative and still astonishing work has a deep connection to two significant artists who radically challenged and redefined our notions of “art” and changed the course of art history.

The Art Institute of Chicago announced a collection-changing acquisition of Marcel Duchamp’s boundary breaking readymade Bottle Rack (1914/59). Signed by Duchamp in 1960 for its owner—a young Robert Rauschenberg—this ever-provocative and still astonishing work has a deep connection to two significant artists who radically challenged and redefined our notions of “art” and changed the course of art history. Acquired from the internationally respected Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, through Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris, Duchamp’s Bottle Rack will go on view today, February 13, 2018, in the Art Institute’s Gallery 395B, contextualized within the museum’s exceptional galleries of modern art.

Art Institute President and Eloise W. Martin Director James Rondeau offered: “Bottle Rack is among the most pivotal, landmark works in Marcel Duchamp's profoundly influential body of work. Rarely, do we have an opportunity to acquire an object that so succinctly embodies the expansive influence of an artist on future generations, including countless on display in our museum every day. This is a transformational moment for our world-class collection—with pride and gratitude we take another progressive step forward in a shared vision with our audiences, curators, and donors to create incomparable experiences of art and artists in our galleries in Chicago."

Duchamp’s contributions are foundational to the history of modern art, and the history of modern art in Chicago. Taken out of its original context, reimagined, and signed by the artist, the readymade upended tradition and artistic convention—transforming an everyday, ordinary object by virtue of the artist selecting it. In 1914, Duchamp purchased a common, massproduced bottle rack at the French department store Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville. Duchamp felt free to acquire new versions for exhibitions and display after his sister accidentally discarded the “original.” He selected the Art Institute’s newly acquired version for the 1959 exhibition Art and the Found Object in New York. Robert Rauschenberg acquired Bottle Rack after the touring exhibition and later, in his studio in 1960, asked Duchamp to sign it; he obliged, writing in French, “Impossible de me rappeler la phrase originale M.D./Marcel Duchamp/1960” (Impossible for me to recall the original phrase).

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