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Duchamp's 'Readymades' and the Making of Contemporary Art

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When surveying the diverse and often difficult works on display in modern art galleries, it's always tempting to ask: 'what exactly is contemporary art?'

Director of the Hayward Gallery in London Ralph Rugoff offers one answer to this contentious question: that 'contemporary art is defiant about defying any attempt to define it' --- and it wholly embraces this ambiguity. Rugoff credits Marcel Duchamp's concept of the 'readymade' as the watershed moment for contemporary art as we know it, the word and form arising from his repurposing of a prefabricated object as sculpture. In this video, Rugoff examines how Duchamp's concept has ricocheted through art history, touching upon works by modern and contemporary masters such as Jasper Johns, Gerhard Richter, Damien Hirst and Jeremy Deller.

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Ralph Rugoff is Director of the Hayward Gallery in London. Since his appointment in 2006, he has curated numerous acclaimed exhibitions including 'Psycho Buildings: Artists Take On Architecture', 'The Painting of Modern Life', 'Jeremy Deller: Joy in People', and 'The Infinite Mix: Contemporary Sound and Video'. He was previously Director of the California College of the Arts (CCA) Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts and was the founding chair of CCA's Graduate Program in Curatorial Practice. His publications include monographs on George Condo, Mark Wallinger and Anya Gallacio, as well as Circus American, Scene of the Crime, and At the Threshold of the Visible. In 2005, he won the inaugural Ordway Prize in the category of arts writer and/or curator from the Penny McCall Foundation. In 2015, he was invited to curate an edition of the Biennale de Lyon, Rugoff's incarnation of the festival examining 'La Vie Moderne'.

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