Who Says It's Art?

The Big Idea:

How have rule-breaking artists changed how we make and view art today?

Activity overview

Usually we think of art as a painting on a wall or a sculpture on a pedestal. Marcel Duchamp's readymades forced his viewers to question this definition of art. In this activity students look at one of the most controversial moments in contemporary art history and debate the questions that the event raised. Each student will determine where he or she stands on the issue and defend the position in a letter to the editor of the local newspaper.

Look closely

Click on each artist button at right to view detailed screens about the artist and his or her works. Be sure to click on all images, view all videos, read all documents, and use the zoom tool to look closely at the works of art.

In this activity you will:

  1. review and analyze a story about the making of an exhibition
  2. debate the definition of art
  3. review the recorded debate in class
  4. write a persuasive letter to the editor based on your position
  5. reflect on how your definition of art changed while debating and writing the letter

You will be graded on:

  1. research notes on 'The R. Mutt Story'
  2. classroom participation
  3. presentation in the debate
  4. analysis of the debate's arguments
  5. persuasive language in your letter to the editor
  6. use of supporting evidence
  7. written reflection

New terms:

readymade, exhibition selection committee