Saâdane Afif *
The Fountain Archives
September 11, 2015 - circa 2017
Fountain, the most controversial artwork in modern art history, didn’t exist for a very long time. Rejected at the Salon des artistes indépendants in 1917, it disappeared the same year, after being shown during a short time at Alfred Stieglitz’ gallery. In fact, the original artwork has become famous thanks to the photographic reproduction Alfred Stieglitz made before its disappearance. It’s this same image that was used to make the replicas* under Marcel Duchamp’s supervision, in 1964.
“No one has ever looked at art. Make artworks that are supposed to be directly reproduced into magazines. As far as we know artworks thanks to their reproductions, we should only conceive artworks for reproduction. Remove the intermediaries in art.”**
This « reminder » formulated by John Baldessari appears to be absolutely pertinent in regards to the posterity of Marcel Duchamp urinal, which, despite its disappearance, has still become one of art history most important masterworks.
It is not by chance that in 2008 Saâdane Afif decided to make Fountain the object of a very special collection – a collection of all the publications in which the famous ready-made has been reproduced.
The Fountain Archives consist thus of a multitude of torn pages on which appears the reproduction of Fountain, each framed individually. Because of the repetition of this motive, the complete series becomes a new artwork on its own, of a contemporary view on how art history and myths of art are created.
Sean Hall. This Means That: A User’s Guide to Semiotics. Laurence King Publishing, London, 2012- p.145 [FA.0400]
Saâdane Afif gladly calls The Fountain Archives a “hobby artwork”, but it requests however an unfailing attention. Today the archive counts almost 600 entries and strives to attain 1001 in order to be complete. Just like the famous collection of tales, the corpus must be read as a legend gathering one thousand and one histories relating the Fountain work.
The presentation of The Fountain Archives at mfc-michèle didier is a highlight of the process started by Saâdane Afif since seven years. The artist supplies his collection during his travels, his research on the internet, leaning on a series of websites that list all the books in the world. A network of experts and collectors have brought over the years a significant contribution by suggesting or sending rare publications, and local or vintage editions. Progressively, the collection will be extended each time with new findings that will be included in the grid previously drawn by the artist on the walls of the office at the gallery.
This exhibition prefigures the publication of the entire Fountain Archives by Saâdane Afif by mfc-michèle didier in 2017, for the Centenary of Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain.
So for now, it’s a work in progress.
* In 1950, it’s a urinal that was selected by Sidney Janis to display Fountain in his gallery. In 1953, a urinal was also selected in order to be sold for the benefit of one of Duchamp’s friends. In 1963, another urinal was chosen by Ulf Linde for the exhibition at the Stockholm Moderna Museet. These are three ready-mades, not replicas. Finally, only the 8+4 editions produced in 1964 and of which a copy is the hands of the Centre Pompidou, are replicas made from Alfred Stieglitz’ photo (with the help of an industrial designer who made a drawing for the ceramist). These are not ready-mades, but sculptures of urinals, replicas of the 1917 urinal. This information comes from the catalogue raisonné of Marcel Duchamp’s works, published by Schwarz.
**John Baldessari, Art conceptuel, une entologie, under the direction of Gauthier Herrmann, Fabrice Reymond and Fabien Vallos, éditions MIX, 2008
« An overview of the seventeen known versions of Fountain » in Cabinet (N° 27), Autumn 2007 – p. 28-29 [FA.0287]
Kunde Harald (eds.). The Present Order is the Disorder of the Future. Kleve: Freundeskreis Museum Kurhaus & Koekkoek-Haus Kleve e.V., 2013 — p. 47 [FA0366]