HANG-UPS / A joke too far: Gallery owner Bernard Jacobson on why he's tired of Duchamp

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The Independent Culture
I think that, first time round, Marcel Duchamp was very interesting, on a very humble level. I'm sure that if, as a young man, I had gone to Duchamp's studio, I would have been uplifted. There was this angry young man doing something very funny, wild and wonderful. The art world needed Dada. As a young man, I was very excited by his Fountain, the urinal and the other Duchamp objects, and that stayed with me to my mid-twenties. His ideas were original. He was angry about the art world. But that's it. He became phoney and ended up being a chess player. The angry young man became the establishment. His followers today have nothing to be angry about. They get more publicity than any other artists. Theirs is a very knowing sort of art. It's sexless, smug, anti-spiritual. It's all one-line jokes - instant gratification. It's a bit like a Chinese meal - once you've eaten it, you're hungry again. It's not my kind of art any more. It's just uninteresting. I find it terribly thin. I'm disappointed with post-Duchampian thinking. He comes across as the modern art world's great villain. He sold Duchampian thinking to three generations, which is extraordinary. He opened the door to the idea that anything goes. It's a very interesting tradition which runs through Beuys, the very cynical approach of Warhol and the deeply cynical approach of people like Michael Landy and Damien Hirst. But it's all very superficial. It was a cul-de-sac in the history of art and it's not being seen as that. It's being seen as the mainstream and that's terrible. It may be sociologically interesting but let's not get bogged down in it. Maybe this recession will give us a chance to re-address things. We need to rewrite the history of art.

Duchamp's 'The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even' can be seen at the Tate Gallery, London.

(Photograph omitted)

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