Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968)
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Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968)

3 Standard Stoppages

Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968)
3 Standard Stoppages
signed, numbered, dated and stamped 'Marcel Duchamp 1964 5/8 3 STOPPAGES-ETALON, 1913-14 EDITION GALERIE SCHWARZ, MILAN' (on a copper plate affixed to the wooden storage case); titled and dated '3 STOPPAGES ETALON 1913-14' (on a leather label affixed to each glass panel); printed on the back of each canvas: 'Un mètre de fil droit, horizontal, tombé d'un mètre de haut' and '(3 stoppages étalon; appartenant à Marcel Duchamp) 1913-14'; the back of one canvas is also signed and dated 'Marcel Duchamp 1964'
three pieces of thread each laid down and affixed with varnish on oil on three canvases mounted on three glass panels; three wood slats in a wooden storage case
artist's wooden storage case: 50 7/8 x 9 x 11 in. (129.2 x 22.8 x 28 cm.)
glass panels: 49 3/8 x 7 1/4 x 1/4 in. (125.5 x 18.5 x 6 cm.)
three wooden slats (shaped):
43 1/8 x 2 1/2 x 1/8 in. (109.8 x 6.4 x 4 cm.)
42 3/4 x 2 1/2 x 1/8 in. (108.6 x 6.4 x 4 cm.)
47 1/8 x 2 5/8 x 1/8 in. (119.6 x 6.6 x 4 cm.)
Conceived in 1913-1914 and executed in 1964. This work is number five from an edition of eight replicas plus two artist's proofs and two replicas outside of the edition.
Private collection, Paris
Kent Fine Art, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1988
R. Lebel, Sur Marcel Duchamp, Paris, 1959, pl. 67 and 67a (another example illustrated).
W. Hopps, U. Linde and A. Schwarz, Marcel Duchamp: Ready-Mades, etc. 1913-1964, Milan, 1964, pp. 29 and 79, no. 1 (another example illustrated).
A. Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, New York, 1969, pp. 443-444, no. 206 (another example illustrated).
P. Cabanne, The Documents of 20th-Century Art: Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, London, 1971, pp. 46-47.
C. Tomkins, The World of Marcel Duchamp, 1887-1968, New York, 1972, pp. 35, 77, and 89.
A. D'Harnoncourt and K. McShine, Marcel Duchamp, New York, 1973, pp. 118, 273-274 and 340 (another example illustrated).
M. Sanouillet and E. Peterson, eds., Salt Seller: The Writings of Marcel Duchamp, London, 1973, pp. 22-23.
J. Masheck, Marcel Duchamp in Perspective, New Jersey, 1975, fig. 13 (another example illustrated).
S. Alexandrian, Marcel Duchamp, New York, 1977, pp. 59-60 (another example illustrated in color).
J.-C. Bailly, Duchamp, New York, 1986, no. 45 (another example illustrated).
U. Linde, Marcel Duchamp, Stockholm, 1986, p. 35 (another example illustrated).
G. Moure, Marcel Duchamp, New York, 1988, p. 127, nos. 74-75 (another example illustrated).
R. Smith, "Religion and Myth," The New York Times, 02 February 1990.
M. Partouche, Marcel Duchamp, Marseille, 1991, p. 40 (another example illustrated).
D. Waldman, Collage, Assemblage, and the Found Object, New York, 1992, p. 136, fig. 186 (another example illustrated).
P. Hulten, ed., Marcel Duchamp: Work and Life, Massachusetts, 1993, p. 33 (another example illustrated in color).
R. Taplin, "Vital Parts," Art in America, February 1993, p. 72.
J. Mink, Marcel Duchamp: Art as Anti-Art, Cologne, 1995, pp. 45-47 (another example illustrated in color).
D. Joselit, Infinite Regress: Marcel Duchamp, 1910-1941, Massachusetts, 1998, p. 13, fig. 1.3 (another example illustrated).
D. Ades, N. Cox and D. Hopkins, Marcel Duchamp, London, 1999, p. 78, fig. 60 (another example illustrated).
F. M. Naumann, Marcel Duchamp: The Art of Making Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, New York, 1999, pp. 44, 132, 223, 231 and 242-243, fig. 2.6, 5.11, 8.23, 8.39 and 8.64 (other examples illustrated).
A. Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, New York, 2000, vol. 1, pp. 345-346 and 594-596, no. 282 (another example illustrated).
Pasadena Art Museum, Marcel Duchamp: A Retrospective Exhibition, October-November 1963, n.p., no. 36 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
London, Tate Gallery, The Almost Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp at the Tate Gallery, June-July 1966, p. 48, no. 110 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Philadelphia Museum of Art; New York, Museum of Modern Art and Art Institute of Chicago, Marcel Duchamp, September 1973-April 1974, no. 126 (another example exhibited).
New York, Gallery Yves Arman and Paris, Galerie Beaubourg, Marcel Duchamp, March-December 1984, pp. IV, 34 and 161 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Cologne, Museum Ludwig, Duchamp, June-August 1984, pp. 144 and 237, no. 55 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Stockholm, Moderna Museet, Implosion: A Postmodern Perspective, October 1987-January 1988, p. 220, no. 8 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Cologne, Museum Ludwig, Marcel Duchamp and the Avant-Garde Since 1950, January-March 1988, pp. 83 and 317-318 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
New York, Barbara Gladstone Gallery, Marcel Broodthaers, Marcel Duchamp, Dieter Roth, February-March 1990.
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Sale room notice
This work is accompanied by a certificate from the Association Marcel Duchamp.

Brought to you by

Sara Friedlander
Sara Friedlander

Lot Essay

Jacqueline Matisse Monnier and the Association Marcel Duchamp have confirmed the authenticity of this work.

“For me the number three is important, but simply from the numerical, not the esoteric, point of view: one is unity, two is double, duality, and three is the rest. When you’ve come to the word three, you have three million—it’s the same thing as three. I had decided that the things would be done three times to get what I wanted.” Marcel Duchamp

Originally conceived in 1913-1914, 3 Standard Stoppages marked a radical turning point within Marcel Duchamp’s oeuvre, as he took a decisive step away from traditional conventions of art production and began to explore new paths to creative expression, rooted in the intellectual rather than the visual world. Neither sculpture nor painting, the work was experimental in nature and was based on an act of chance instigated by the artist. Duchamp precisely measured three lengths of white thread to a meter and then dropped them, one at a time, from a height of the same measurement, allowing the strings to fall onto a painted canvas in a series of random, self-determined curvilinear lines. These threads were then adhered to the canvases and affixed to glass plates, preserving the moment of chance in perpetuity. Three wooden slats were subsequently cut along the profiles of these threads to create tools of measurement that paradoxically standardized the random curves the strings had assumed on landing, creating new units of measurement in the process. For, although each of the strings was still one metre in length along their curves, their shapes and straight linear measurements varied vastly from one another. The work became an elaborate, artistic measuring device, one which Duchamp used in the creation of several subsequent works, most notably the diagrammatic painting Network of Stoppages (1914) and the early masterpiece The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (Large Glass) (1915-1923), where the stoppages would become the basis for the “Capillary Tubes” in the lower half of the glass.

As Duchamp explained, the experiment at the heart of 3 Standard Stoppages was designed “to imprison and preserve forms obtained through chance, through my chance. At the same time, the unit of length, one meter, was changed from a straight line to a curved line without actually losing its identity [as] the meter…” (M. Duchamp, quoted in A. d’Harnoncourt and K. McShine, eds., Marcel Duchamp, exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1973, pp. 273-274). By allowing chance to become the primary determining factor in the creation of the work and transforming the metre in this way, Duchamp challenges the notion that the rules governing the metric system of measurement enshrined in French law were infallible, universal truths, instead exposing them as an intellectual construct, determined in their own way by chance. The work emerged during a period of widespread skepticism concerning the objectivity of scientific knowledge, as recent discoveries had caused physicists across the globe to question their understanding of the established laws of nature. Particularly influential for Duchamp were the writings of the mathematician and philosopher of science, Henri Poincaré, who sought to explain the conceptual changes that had occurred as a result of the discovery of X-rays, the phenomenon of radioactivity, and Einstein’s theories regarding the electron and its laws. According to Poincaré, no theorems could be considered conclusively objective, as they were created solely by the minds that understood them, and could be open to challenges following future discoveries. Indeed, in his 1902 publication Science and Hypothesis, Poincaré highlighted the ways in which this undermined the truth of even the most fundamental of laws, and proposed whether under these circumstances it was “unreasonable to inquire whether the metric system is true or false?” (H. Poincaré, quoted in H. Molderings, “Objects of Modern Scepticism,” in T. de Duve, ed., The Definitively Unfinished Marcel Duchamp, Cambridge, 1991, p. 246).

Perhaps inspired by Poincaré’s statement, Duchamp sought to parody the authority of the rationalized, institutional metric system in 3 Standard Stoppages, straining its conventions and laws to reveal their inherent instability. By carrying out the experiment three separate times, the artist was able to avoid the creation of a new dogmatic system of his own, with the triplicate action opening up the idea to infinite possibilities. As he explained: “For me the number three is important, but simply from the numerical, not the esoteric, point of view: one is unity, two is double, duality, and three is the rest. When you’ve come to the word three, you have three million—it’s the same thing as three. I had decided that the things would be done three times to get what I wanted. …” (M Duchamp, quoted in Marcel Duchamp,ed., exh. cat., Museum Jean Tinguely, Basel, 2002, p. 68). When combined with the chance element of Duchamp’s practice, this triple realization of the experiment results in a playful, tongue-in-cheek challenge to the authority of not only the metre as a system of measurement, but also the reliability of the scientific method itself.

The significance of 3 Standard Stoppages within Duchamp’s oeuvre was recognized by the artist during a 1961 interview with Katherine Kuh when, asked which of his works he considered to be the most important, he candidly replied: “I’d say the Three Stoppages of 1913. That was really when I tapped the mainspring of my future… it opened the way—the way to escape from those traditional methods of expression long associated with art. I didn’t realize at the time exactly what I had stumbled on. When you tap something you don’t always recognize the sound. That’s apt to come later. For me the Three Stoppages was a first gesture liberating me from the past” (M. Duchamp, quoted in K. Kuh, The Artist’s Voice: Talks with Seventeen Artists, New York, 1962, p. 81). As a result, when Arturo Schwarz approached the artist in 1964 with a proposal to produce an edition of eight replicas of the original work, Duchamp happily agreed. Coming at a time of widespread international acclaim for the artist, these proposed editions of Duchamp’s earliest works were intended to fill in the gaps within his oeuvre, replacing a number of his most famous Readymades and early works which had been lost or permanently damaged in the intervening years. Although 3 Standard Stoppages survived in its original state, having been purchased by Katherine Dreier in 1918 and subsequently donated to the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1953, Duchamp felt that the work was of such importance, and represented an influential moment within his career, that it merited inclusion in this set of new editions.

“Pure chance interested me as a way of going against logical reality: to put something on a canvas, on a bit of paper, to associate the idea of a perpendicular thread one metre long falling from the height of one metre onto a horizontal plane, making its own deformation. This amused me. It is always the idea of “amusement” which causes me to do things…” Marcel Duchamp

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