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Marcel Duchamp’s quotes about chess beauty, art as a drug, and cunning of language

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It is difficult to measure the significance of art in Marcel Duchamp`s life. At first glance, he was much more interested in the complicated chess matches… and life itself. However, he talked a lot about art, wrote articles and essays, gave lectures in the universities. Sometimes his statements and conclusions were controversial and even shocking. The artist often compared art to chess, and artists, to the players. Both of his passions occupied Duchamp`s mind, constantly competing with each other.
What I have in mind is that art may be bad, good or indifferent, but, whatever adjective is used, we must call it art, and bad art is still art in the same way as a bad emotion is still an emotion.

The only man in the past whom I really respect was Seurat… He didn’t let his hand interfere with his mind.

I don’t believe in art. I believe in artists.

The Chess pieces are the block alphabet which shapes thoughts; and these thoughts, although making a visual design on the chessboard, express their beauty abstractly, like a poem.

It’s true, of course, humor is very important in my life, as you know. That’s the only reason for living, in fact.
Marcel Duchamp next to his Readymade Bicycle Wheel. April 1967.
As soon as we start putting our thoughts into words and sentences everything gets distorted, language is just no damn good—I use it because I have to, but I don’t put any trust in it. We never understand each other.

The life of an artist is like the life of a monk, a lewd monk if you like, very Rabelaisian.

Eroticism is close to life, closer than philosophy or anything like that, its an animal thing that has many facets and is pleasing to use, as you would use a tube of paint.

You cannot define electricity. The same can be said of art. It is a kind of inner current in a human being, or something which needs no definition.

All this twaddle, the existence of God, atheism, determinism, liberation, societies, death, etc., are pieces of a chess game called language, and they are amusing only if one does not preoccupy oneself with 'winning or losing this game of chess.
I’ve decided that art is a habit-forming drug. That’s all it is, for the artist, for the collector, for anybody connected with it.

If a shadow is a two-dimensional projection of the three-dimensional world, then the three-dimensional world as we know it is the projection of the four-dimensional Universe.

Not all artists are Chess players, but all Chess players are artists.

The American woman is the most intelligent woman in the world today — the only one that always knows what she wants, and therefore always gets it. Hasn’t she proved it by making her husband in his role as slave-banker look almost ridiculous in the eyes of the whole world? Not only has she intelligence but a wonderful beauty of line is hers, possessed by no other woman of any race at the present time.

The creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act.
Marcel Duchamp. Fountain
1950, 30.5×38.1 cm
The individual, man as a man, man as a brain, if you like, interests me more than what he makes, because I’ve noticed that most artists only repeat themselves.

I have drawn people’s attention to the fact that art is a mirage. A mirage, just like the oasis that appears in the desert. It is very beautiful, until the moment when you die of thirst, obviously. But we do not die of thirst in the field of art. The mirage has substance.

The life of a chess master is much more difficult than that of an artist — much more depressing. An artist knows that someday there’ll be recognition and monetary reward, but for the chess master there is little public recognition and absolutely no hope of supporting himself by his endeavors. If Bobby Fischer came to me for advice, I certainly would not discourage him — as if anyone could — but I would try to make it positively clear that he will never have any money from chess, live a monk-like existence and know more rejection than any artist ever has, struggling to be known and accepted.
Duchamp Playing Chess With A Nude (Eve Babitz) at Pasadena Art Museum, October 18, 1963.
I believe that a picture, a work of art, lives and dies just as we do…

I like living, breathing better than working…my art is that of living. Each second, each breath is a work which is inscribed nowhere, which is neither visual nor cerebral, it’s a sort of constant euphoria.

Since the tubes of paint used by the artist are manufactured and ready made products we must conclude that all the paintings in the world are 'readymades aided' and also works of assemblage.

Art is either plagiarism or revolution.
I feel shame, not for the wrong things I have done, but for the right things that I have failed to do.

In my day artists wanted to be outcasts, pariahs. Now they are all integrated into society.

I am still a victim of chess. It has all the beauty of art — and much more. It cannot be commercialized. Chess is much purer than art in its social position.

I thought to discourage aesthetics… I threw the bottlerack and the urinal in their faces and now they admire them for their aesthetic beauty.
Marcel Duchamp. L.H.O.O.Q.
1919, 19.7×12.4 cm
The curious thing about that moustache and goatee is that when you look at the Mona Lisa it becomes a man. It is not a woman disguised as a man; it is a real man, and that was my discovery, without realising it at the time.

Chess is a sport. A violent sport.
Sources of Marcel Duchamp’s quotes:,,,
Images sources:, widewalls. ch

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Snezhana Ivanova
, October 2, 2017 04:20 PM 0
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