Naming the Readymade, a Centenary

January 15th, 1916, Duchamp’s letter to his sister in which he first names the “readymade”

Translation of Duchamp’s letter:
15th January approximately. My dear Suzanne, A huge thank you for having taken care of everything for me. But why didn’t you take my studio and go and live there? I’ve only just thought of it. Though I think, perhaps, it wouldn’t do for you. In any case, the lease is up 15th July and if you were to renew it, make sure you ask the landlord to let it 3 months at a time, the usual way. He’s bound to agree. Perhaps Father wouldn’t mind getting a term’s rent back if there’s a possibility you’ll be leaving La Condamine by 15th April. But I don’t know anything about your plans and I’m only making a suggestion. Now, if you have been up to my place, you will have seen, in the studio, a bicycle wheel and a bottle rack. I bought this as a ready-made sculpture. And I have a plan concerning this so-called bottle rack. Listen to this: here, in N.Y., I have bought various objects in the same taste and I treat them as “readymades.” You know enough English to understand the meaning of “ready-made” that I give these objects. I sign them and I think of an inscription for them in English. I’ll give you a few examples. I have, for example, a large snow shovel on which I have inscribed at the bottom: In advance of the broken arm, French translation: En avance du bras casé. Don’t tear your hair out trying to understand this in the Romantic or Impressionistic or Cubist sense—it has nothing to do with all that. Another “readymade” is called: Emergency in favor of twice, possible French translation: Danger \ Crise \ en faveur de 2 fois. This long preamble just to say: take the bottle rack for yourself. I’m making it a “Readymade,” remotely. You are to inscribe it at the bottom and on the inside of the bottom circle, in small letters painted with a brush in oil, silver white color, with an inscription which I will give you herewith, and then sign it, in the same handwriting as follows: [after] Marcel Duchamp.
[Francis M. Naumann and Hector Obalk, eds.; Jill Taylor, trans. Affectionately | Marcel: The Selected Correspondence of Marcel Duchamp. Ghent, Belgium: Ludion Press, 2000, 43–44.]


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