Though his work is often most identified with the Dadaism of the times, it was his painting, Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2, which cemented his position as a giant in the world of modern art. Once critics and fellow artists saw the painting at the 1913 Armory Show in New York City, the art world was at once scandalized and captivated, and Duchamp's work was firmly at the center of the storm.
The artist next took on a project he called Readymades. Essentially 'found objects' Duchamp selected and presented as artworks, his Bicycle Wheel predated later works in the series which found a foothold in 1915.
"My idea was to choose an object that wouldn't attract me, either by its beauty or by its ugliness," he said. "To find a point of indifference in my looking at it,"
The Bicycle Wheel was soon followed by pieces like Bottle Rack, Prelude to a Broken Arm and Fountain, a urinal signed with the artist's pseudonym, 'R. Mutt.' It was the last of these which fully turned the art world toward a postmodern vision, and it was selected in 2004 as 'the most influential artwork of the 20th century' by 500 famous artists and art historians.
It so happens that Duchamp was also an avid chess player, and shortly after the debut of Fountain, Duchamp bolted from the New York art community bound for Buenos Aires. It was there that his passion for chess fully took root, and as a result, he set to work carving his own set of pieces.
And now, taking their cue from Duchamp, artists Bryan Cera and Scott Kildall have reproduced a replica of Dumchamp's personal pieces. It's a faithful recreation of the delightfully simple chess set the artist used to play his own games.
Cera, of Milwaukee, and San Francisco artist Kildall call their project "ReadyMake" in honor of Duchamp's project.
And, thanks to their efforts, you can have your very own set. They uploaded the files for their designs to Thingiverse.
Several other artists have joined the fray with versions of their own. Frankie Flood (who cast the set in metal), Pete Prodoehl and Patrick Lichty all have versions of the set they created as an homage to the artist.
Flood and his partner cut up scrap bronze and loaded the pieces into an electric melting furnace, and once it was up to temperature, they poured the molten metal into their 3D printed sand molds. The final operation was to cut off the button and sprue, and then pickle the pieces in a very diluted sulphuric acid solution to remove any impurities on the surface of the part.
"In an age of digital fabrication and open source design, the boundaries between concept and object continue to blur," Kildall says. "We invite other thinkers and makers to join our exploration of conceptual-material formations – to discover and create with our readymakes, and contribute their own.