In 1917, Marcel Duchamp signed R. Mutt to a porcelain urinal, titled it “Fountain,” and declared it a work of art. The art world was immediately plunged into a new era where talent, draftsmanship, and beauty were suddenly declared irrelevant, and unnecessary. In fact, the very notion of talent was deemed unnecessary to the enterprise of making art.
For Duchamp, the “concept” of art, the intention, counted far more than the object. Duchamp’s urinal is regarded by some art historians and theorists as the major landmark of 20th century art.
The definition of art is something of a problem. In a post-Duchamp world, just labeling something an object of art automatically confers upon it the status of art. It is left to critics and the market place to assign a value, if any, to the object.
Over at Bir Zeit University (the most popular course is Jew-hatred 101) near Ramallah, a group of Arab intellectuals has set up an art exhibit.