A surprising comment from Duchamp, of all people, from 1946. It appears in his collected writings:
"During the other war [1914-1919] life among the artists in New York was quite different--much more congenial than it has been in the last few years. Among the artists there was much more cohesion--much closer fellowship, much less opportunism. The whole spirit was much different. There was quite a bit of activity, but it was limited to a relatively small group and nothing was done very publicly. Publicity always takes something away. And the great advantage in that earlier period was that the art of the time was laboratory work; now it is diluted for public consumption."
I don't know what to make of this. Is it merely sour grapes as a reaction to the ascendance of the New York School? Regardless, it certainly does make one do a double-take regarding both the politics of scandal and regarding some of the uses to which Duchamp's ideas have been put in the contemporary scene. How do we understand or recontextualize such a comment for a post-Warhol, post-internet, post-Google/MySpace/YouTube age of artmaking, in which the artist spends just as much time promoting the work as actually making it? On the other hand, perhaps a more relevant question to ask is: to what extent historically have avant-garde artworks in America always been advertisements for themselves?