The priority of the connoisseur

West Broadway (Society Takes What It Wants) ©MAIERMOUL
West Broadway (Society Takes What It Wants) ©MAIERMOUL

Bad, good, or indifferent, I don’t care. You don’t have to be happy or unhappy about it, you see? That’s the trouble: taste can’t help you understand what art can be. The difficulty is to make a painting that is alive…

As far as art history is concerned, we know that in spite of what the artist said or did, something stayed on that was completely independent of what the artist desired; it was grabbed by society, which made it its own. The artist doesn’t count. He does not count. Society takes what it wants.

Calvin Tomkins: But the artist shouldn’t concern himself with this.

Absolutely not, because he doesn’t know. He thinks he knows. He’s painting a nude, and he thinks he knows what he’s doing. His painting is nice looking. But it has nothing to do with what the onlooker sees in it: he sees an entirely different side. The priority of the connoisseur or whatever you call him isn’t to speak the same language as the artist. The interaction of the onlooker makes the painting. Without that, the painting would disappear in an attic.

In other words, the artist should not consider himself a supreme being.

You try that!. An artist, if I try to discuss that, will say, “You’re crazy! I know what I’m doing.” They’re such supreme egos. It’s disgusting. I’ve never seen anything worse than an artist as a mind. It is very low, uninteresting as far as the relationship of men is concerned.

– Marcel Duchamp, in Marcel Duchamp: The Afternoon Interviews, Calvin Tompkins