We picked up a pretty cool book last weekend at the Friends of the Library Sale–Pierre Cabbanne’s Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp. Duchamp is way more straightforward than you would think, and also quite funny. He’s also, as his work would attest, often reflective and philosophical. Here, he waxes heavy on art, beauty, transience, and mediocrity:
I think painting dies, you understand. After forty or fifty years a picture dies, because its freshness disappears. Sculpture also dies. This is my own little hobbyhorse, which no one accepts, but I don’t mind. I think a picture dies after a few years like the man who painted it. Afterward it’s called the history of art. There’s a huge difference between a Monet today, which is black as anything, and a Monet sixty or eighty years ago, when it was brilliant, when it was made. Now it has entered history–it’s accepted as that, and anyway that’s fine, because that has nothing to do with what it is. Men are mortal, pictures too.
The history of art is something very different from aesthetics. For me, the history of art is what remains of an epoch in a museum, but it’s not necessarily the best of that epoch, because the beautiful things have disappeared–the public didn’t want to keep them. But this is philosophy…
So, I guess all those urinals Duchamp made aren’t so fresh today.