This isn’t to say Duchamp’s work is casual or offhand -- it's just the opposite. It’s deliberate and mindful, even if it sometimes uses chance; and I always feel with his art that a human being has made choices and decisions, however absurd. And, as a corollary to this, Duchamp’s work, with the possible exception of some of his Readymades, is fabricated by hand. Of course almost all art is hand-made, but Duchamp’s is emphatically so, and we strongly experience it as such.
Back side of Fresh Widow
This hand-made quality was brought home to me when I took a good look at the back of Fresh Widow -- a miniature French window (a typically bad pun) whose glass is covered with black leather that Duchamp insisted “should be shined every day like shoes.” (Given the cracks on the leather, I doubt if MoMA honored this request.) It’s displayed near a wall, but not right up against it, so the back of the work can be easily seen. (I wonder if Duchamp included exhibition guidelines for this as he did with several other works.I also wonder if the glass case Fresh Widow is displayed in was Duchamp’s idea -- I doubt it.)
Btw, in the same room are paintings by Duchamp’s friends and colleagues Man Ray, John Covert and Katherine Dreier. They all worked with Duchamp to establish organizations (The Society of Independent Artists and the Société Anonyme) that exhibited and promoted modern art and educated people about it. Duchamp also made a modest income advising such great collectors as Walter Arensberg (whose collection is in the Philadelphia Museum of Art), Peggy Guggenheim and Katherine Dreier (mentioned above, whose collection went to Yale and MoMA).
For someone so reluctant to promote or sell his own work (or even admit to making art at all), Duchamp seemed to have had no trouble doing so for others. I can relate to that!