On the Subject of the Ready-made
or Using a Rembrandt as an Ironing Board
24 Nov 2016 - 14 May 2017
or To Use a Rembrandt as an Ironing-board
Works from the Daimler Art Collection selected by Bethan Huws on the occasion of 100 years of the ready-made
with loans from the Duchamp Archive of Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
25 November 2016 — 14 May 2017
The concept of the ready-made was ‘born’ in 1916 when Marcel Duchamp, in New York, defined it in a letter to his sister in Paris. The aim of the ready-made is to achieve a radical revaluation of artistic production: this consists principally of an act of selection and reduction applied to already existing elements, with the focus on ‘exhibition-immanent’ aspects such as presentation, communication, documentation, and dissemination. Furthermore, the ready-made redefines the reality character and the reproduction function of the artwork as well as the role of observers as ‘interpreters’.
Whilst the Daimler Art Collection’s serial exhibition blocks have previously concentrated on the collection’s own areas of interest in the realm of minimalist and conceptual tendencies from the 20th century to the present day, the exhibition ‘On the Subject of the Ready-Made’ explores the historical and contemporary significance of the ready-made, using artworks from the collection. The intention is that the aspects of art theory and art criticism should be incorporated as critical factors in the history of the reception of ready-mades.
Bethan Huws is a conceptual artist who synthesizes a variety of artistic media in location- specific and space-related artworks, each time renegotiating the significance of art in society. The basis for her work is provided by language: the spoken word, and the communicative system. Her artistic praxis unites language artworks in the form of wall texts, book objects, neon sign texts, readings, performances, and text vitrines with ready-mades, sculptures, and films. For the exhibition ‘On the Subject of the Ready-Made’ the artist has devised a location specific project, selecting examples of artwork from the Daimler Art Collection.
Bethan Huws’ curatorial concept starts with Duchamp’s praxis of a combinatorial thinking, the inherent logic and the analytical wealth of allusions found in Duchamp’s conceptual approach. She represents these aspects through the visual neighborhood of artworks from one hundred years of art history, surprisingly juxtaposed so that they provide a commentary on one another. The exhibition’s title is a play-on-words on the famous dictum of Lautréamont: ‘As beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting-table of a sewing-machine and an umbrella’ (1874), which became a defining slogan of the Surrealists, and also anticipated the readymade in linguistic form. In 1959, Duchamp adapted this for the concept of a ‘reciprocal ready-made’: “You take a picture by Rembrandt and, instead of looking at it, simply use it as an ironing-board.”
Dr. Renate Wiehager
Head of the Daimler Art Collection, Stuttgart/Berlin