University of New South Wales
Why Duchamp is an artist and you are not
In this paper I argue that Duchamp’s readymades constitute an attack on the essentialist ontology of art. Essentialists claim that an object is a work of art if and only if it has an aesthetic property among its essentials. Duchamp’s readymades offer the proof that such an essentialist perspective is unfeasible. In fact, although they are works of art, and we appreciate them as such, they are deliberately meant to have no aesthetic properties. Against the essentialist view, I want to defend Dickie’s and Danto’s institutional definition of art, according to which an object obtains the status of ‘work of art’ in virtue of an external conferment and not in virtue of any of its intrinsic properties.