The year that the present work was executed, 1999, was a particularly important one for Craig-Martin. He held his first solo exhibition in New York at the Peter Blum Gallery entitled Common History and John Elderfield also commissioned him to produce a major installation for the Museum of Modern Art, New York's millenium exhibition entitled Modern Starts: Things. Rooted in his ongoing exploration of ordinary everyday objects, Craig-Martin's work for both events also incorporated an investigation of our shared past or Common History and in the spirit of celebrating the past millenium, included major objects from the canon of 20th Century Art and Design by artists and designers such as Duchamp, Thonet, Rietveld and Saarinen.
Although not included in the Blum show, the present work is strongly related to the works in the exhibition and like Common History: Totem (1999) and Common History: Park (1999), Duchamp's Fountain (1917) is instantly recognizable. In a lecture in 1997, Craig-Martin had already stated that Duchamp 'has been the most influential artist of the second half of the twentieth century' (Craig-Martin, 'Townsend Lecture', quoted in Richard Cork, Michael Craig-Martin, Thames and Hudson, London, 2006, p.150). In Common History: Ready or Not, The Fountain, undoubtedly the most iconic of Duchamp's so-called 'ready-mades', is juxtaposed with simple objects such as the large safety pin and a water tap as well as Mies van der Rohe's Brno chair (1929-1930) and Duchamp's own snow shovel (Prelude to a Broken Arm, 1915). Craig-Martin has thus set up an engaging dialogue both between his own work and the modern masters who preceded him but also, following in Duchamp's footsteps, between objects traditionally conceived of as art and those that are not. Indeed, as Craig-Martin said himself, 'I came to feel that the objects around us, particularly the ones that we value the least because they were the most ubiquitous, were actually the most interesting, these seem to me incredibly complex and extraordinary things...' (Craig-Martin, in conversation with John Tusa, BBC Radio 3).
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