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Friday, 10 May, 2002, 13:08 GMT 14:08 UK
Urinal set to sell for 1.7m
Duchamp's The Fountain / Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg
Duchamp sent the original urinal to a New York show in 1917
One of the most famous of all works of conceptual art, an enamel urinal entitled The Fountain, could fetch up to $2.5m (1.7m) at auction on Monday.

The urinal, one of the "readymade" works of French artist Marcel Duchamp, is part of a complete set of his works being sold at the New York auction house Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg.

The 14 works are expected to fetch between $8.5m and $12.6m (5.8m and 8.6m) in total.


We took two years to recreate them all

Arturo Schwarz on copying the original "readymades"
Duchamp sparked a major artistic controversy with his "readymade" creations in the period 1913 to 1920, which included a floating hat rack, a coat rack nailed to the floor, and a bicycle wheel affixed to a kitchen stool.

Duchamp, originally a Cubist painter, became disillusioned with painting and began to see the artistic potential in everyday objects.

He sent the original urinal, signed R Mutt in a punning reference to the popular cartoon characters Mutt and Jeff, to an art show in New York in 1917.

Copies

The artist later described his purpose as "ridding myself of the retinal heritage of the last 100 years", stressing "it was the idea that mattered".

He later made a series of authorised and signed copies of his readymade collections.

One set belonged to art collector Arturo Schwarz, who in 1964 helped Duchamp execute 12 copies of the original series.

"We took two years to recreate them all," said Mr Schwarz.

"We went to a factory that produces urinals and asked them to produce a urinal according to a photograph I had from the original piece - not their own urinal.

'Destroyed'

"They said they have to make a special steel frame, stop their production for a whole day and that for the same price I could have 2,000 of their urinals."

Mr Schwarz told them that personally he could not usefully employ so many.

"After that they gave me the steel model which I destroyed so that nobody could do them again."

Mr Schwarz said the complete sets were sold at the time for just $20,000 (13,700), which included the royalties for Duchamp.

The collector recently sold the complete set of 14 readymades to a Zurich-based Swiss investment company called Van Art Establishment, which arranged the auction.

Monday's sale also includes a large self-portrait by Andy Warhol, expected to fetch at least $3m (2m), and a Jeff Koon's cast-bronze piece The Aqualung, estimated at between $1.5m and $2m (1m and 1.4m).

See also:

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Art attacks: Don't handle with care
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