Duchamp and the Readymade McNugget

Forget that $250 million Cezanne. The art world’s new pricing mystery is the Readymade McNugget.

On February 20, Rebekah Speights of Dakota City, Neb., offered a three-year-old McDonald’s Chicken McNugget, alleged to resemble the profile of George Washington, on eBay. The starting bid was $100. Buyer offers went up to at least as high as $356. The link is now broken. Maybe some wealthy potentate made a pre-emptive bid?

The deep-fried morsel looks less like Washington per se than like Marcel Duchamp’s 1943 portrait of the Founding Father, Allégorie de genre, created for Vogue magazine and never published (above right).

Explained Duchamp:

I made a George Washington in the geographical shape of the United States. In place of his face, I put the American flag. It seems that my red stripes looked like dripping blood, and Vogue lost their minds. They thought it would cause a scandal. So they refused my project. They sent me forty dollars for my trouble and it never appeared. André Breton bought it for three hundred dollars.

You got it: an original and unique Duchamp construction, created a generation after Fountain and The Large Glass, sold for less than a Chicken McNugget apparently did, just now. Okay, $300 went further in the 1940s but consider:  The nugget was part of a 99 Cent McNugget Tuesday deal.