Art History Lab

Transforming Trash into Masterpieces: The Fascinating World of Found Object Art

Found Object Art and Its Influence on Sculpture

Art has always been a product of inspiration and creativity, and found object art embodies such characteristics in their purest form. This captivating art form utilizes everyday items that have been discarded and no longer serve their original purpose.

Through careful observation and creative manipulation, these items are transformed into unique artistic expressions that often challenge our preconceptions about what art is and what it can be. The following article will provide an introduction to found object art and overview its history and most notable contributors, as well as explore specific examples of found object Found Object Art

Found object art, often referred to as readymade art or objet trouv, is an art movement that dates back to the early 20th century when artists began to incorporate everyday items into their work.

This new approach to art making led to an exploration of art beyond the traditional mediums of paint, canvas, and stone. Found objects could be anything from a bicycle wheel, a urinal, or even a stuffed animal, that was either abandoned or recycled into fine art.

The underlying philosophy behind found object art is that anything can be used to create art, and that even the most mundane objects can be repurposed to evoke uncommon emotions in the viewer. This notion of repurposing objects to explore new ways of seeing is what sets found object art apart from other art movements, and has made it popular among modern artists.

Marcel Duchamp and the Pioneering of Found Object Art

One of the main contributors to found object art was Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), a French artist who is considered the father of this art form. His infamous piece, Fountain (1917), exemplifies the found object approach to art.

He submitted a pre-manufactured porcelain urinal to an exhibition under the pseudonym, R. Mutt.

The provocative piece sparked controversy as it challenged the traditional notions of what constituted fine art. Duchamp believed that art could be anything that an artist declared as such.

This groundbreaking work of art would forever change the way we view and appreciate art. In addition to Duchamp’s Fountain, other Dada artists began integrating found objects into their own works.

Dada was an art movement whose main objective was to reject and ridicule traditional societal values, as well as the logic that was thought to govern art making at the time. The Dada artists utilized the absurd and nonsensical as a way to subvert these values and create new meanings through the use of found objects.

Found Object Art After Duchamp

Duchamp’s influence on the art world inspired other artists to explore found object art in their own unique ways. The Surrealists, for example, sought to explore the workings of the subconscious mind through their artworks, which often featured surreal forms and imagery.

Surrealist artists, such as Meret Oppenheim, would incorporate everyday objects into their artworks as a way to evoke a sense of mystery, or to provoke their audience into thinking about the inherent strangeness of the world around them. Kurt Schwitters, a German artist who was influential during the Dada period, combined found objects with traditional art media such as collage and painting.

He referred to his works as “Merz” pieces, which were compositional constructions that included a diverse array of materials and incorporated typography and graphic design elements. As the art world continued to evolve in the mid-20th century, found object art became an integral part of the Pop Art movement.

Pop artists, such as Claes Oldenburg and Robert Rauschenberg, often incorporated everyday objects into their work, but with a focus on popular culture and consumerism. Oldenburg’s sculpture, Giant Hamburger (1963), is an example of his use of found objects to address the commodification of the American food industry.

Modern Found Object Art

Today, there are numerous contemporary artists who use found objects in their work. For example, Damien Hirst is known for his use of taxidermy and found objects in his sculptures, while Jeff Koons incorporates everyday objects such as balloon animals and stainless steel appliances into his works.

Ai Weiwei uses found objects as a way to address issues related to China’s cultural and political history, while Kara Walker’s art confronts race and identity through her use of found objects and mixed media. Who Actually Invented the Ready Made?

Although Marcel Duchamp is generally credited with inventing the readymade, many historians believe that the real inventor of the readymade was Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, a Dada artist who exhibited found objects and pre-manufactured objects as art in the early 20th century. Whether Duchamp or Freytag-Loringhoven was the true inventor of the readymade has been the subject of ongoing debate, but the impact that this art form has had on the art world is beyond dispute.

Examples of Found Object Sculpture

Found object sculptures are some of the most intriguing works of art out there. They provide a unique combination of beauty and humor that can simultaneously captivate and challenge the viewer’s perception of traditional art.

Some of the most notable found object sculptures include:

– Lobster Telephone by Salvador Dali: This surrealist sculpture is a prime example of how everyday objects can be combined to create a work of art. The piece features a telephone with a lobster for a receiver, illustrating Dali’s fascination with randomness and the absurd.

– Untitled by Joseph Cornell: This assemblage sculpture is comprised of a wooden box filled with a variety of found objects such as marbles, mirrors, and shells. Cornell’s use of found objects and the detailed arrangement of the elements create a dreamlike atmosphere.

– Electric Dress by Atsuko Tanaka: This sculpture is composed of light bulbs, clear plastic tubes and electrical wiring. It was created in 1956 by Atsuko Tanaka, a member of the Gutai group, a Japanese avant-garde art movement that embraced new materials and technologies in their work.

The dress reflects the group’s fascination with color and light. – My Bed by Tracey Emin: This piece is a controversial work of art created by the British artist Tracey Emin.

It features Emin’s bed as the central object, with various items such as cigarettes, liquor bottles, and condoms strewn about. The work confronts issues of sexuality, identity, and personal expression.


Found object art has been an important part of the art world since Marcel Duchamp first introduced it. It has evolved over the years and become an essential part of modern art making.

Through the use of everyday objects, artists have found new ways to challenge and captivate their audiences. From Dada to Pop Art, and from Meret Oppenheim to Tracey Emin, found object sculpture continues to inspire and push boundaries in the art world.

FAQs about Found Art

Found art is an enigmatic form of artistic expression that has confounded and intrigued art enthusiasts for generations. Although the basic premise of the artform is simple, its intricacies and complexities can be difficult to grasp.

This article will answer some frequently asked questions about found art, including its definition, examples, and controversies.

Definition and Controversy of Found Art

Q: What is found art? A: Found art is a form of art that utilizes pre-existing objects or materials, often those that would not typically be considered art, to create new meaning or context.

Q: What is the difference between found art and readymade art? A: Found art and readymade art are often used interchangeably, but there is a subtle difference.

Readymade art refers specifically to objects that are mass-produced and intended for practical use, whereas found art refers more broadly to any object that is discovered or repurposed for artistic expression. Q: What is the controversy surrounding found art?

A: The controversy surrounding found art centers around the idea of what qualifies as art. Traditional notions of art have typically focused on the skill and originality of the artist, whereas found art challenges these notions by emphasizing the idea and concept behind the work rather than the artist’s execution.

Example of Found Object Art

Q: Can you provide an example of found object art? A: One prime example of found object art is the Lobster Telephone by Salvador Dali.

This surrealist sculpture is a perfect representation of how everyday objects can be combined to create a work of art. The piece features a telephone with a lobster for a receiver, illustrating Dali’s fascination with randomness and the absurd.

Q: Why is the Lobster Telephone considered a work of art? A: The Lobster Telephone is considered a work of art because it challenges traditional notions of what constitutes art.

By taking an everyday object and transforming it into something unexpected, Dali calls into question our preconceptions of reality, while also providing commentary on society’s obsession with consumer culture and the absurdity of material possessions. Q: How is found art valuable?

A: The value of found art lies in its ability to challenge traditional artistic conventions and push boundaries. By eschewing conventional techniques and materials, artists can create works of extraordinary beauty and meaning that might not be possible using traditional mediums.

Additionally, found art often provides a unique perspective on the world that can challenge our assumptions about what is truly meaningful or valuable. Q: How can I start creating found art?

A: Creating found art can be as simple as finding an interesting object and repurposing it in unexpected ways. It requires an open mind and an eye for detail.

The key to creating extraordinary art through found objects is to be curious and to challenge yourself to think outside of the box. Found art is a captivating form of artistic expression that challenges traditional artistic conventions and pushes boundaries.

With a history that spans over a century, the art form continues to intrigue and inspire audiences around the world. Defined by the repurposing of everyday objects and materials, found art has provided artists with a unique perspective on the world and challenged our assumptions about what constitutes art.

From Marcel Duchamp and Salvador Dali to contemporary artists like Damien Hirst and Kara Walker, found art has left an indelible mark on the art world that continues to captivate and inspire.

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