Skip to content

Marcel Duchamp (4) vs. Thomas Kinkade

The winner of yesterday‘s bout is Thoreau. The best pro-Thoreau argument came from JRC: “This one breaks down to to whose narrative on loneliness and solitude is more interesting: the guy who removed himself from society, or the guy forcibly removed from it. Lifetime probability of incarceration and homelessness seems in the same ballpark, so we can’t just judge by “most useful discussion to most number of people” . . . So we have to decide based on comedy. And what would be funnier than pressing HDT on the use of surveying people about homeless based on ‘Random-digit dialing . . . households with telephones.’ Also, there’s nothing quite like disappointing an important thinker in history by pointing out that, despite the fact you ended an institution they hate, you still put 30% of black men in chains.” JRC gets extra credit for linking to BLS data in his comment.

Thoreau also got this good endorsement from Mark in comments: “Thoreau conducted a social experiment, and admitted to errors in his experiment (e.g., planted too many beans, bought too much lime, and lists many food storage ‘experiments that failed’, including flour, sugar ,lard apples, etc.). I don’t recall Manson admitting to many errors. Plus, Thoreau wrote important things like ‘simplify, simplify’, ‘shams and delusions are esteemed for soundest truths, while reality is fabulous’, and ‘uptown funk gonna give it to you.'” I don’t know that I agree with “simplify, simplify”—maybe we could get into some good discussions regarding Occam’s razor.

Today we have a matchup between two artists! This is a good one because both are known for their concepts, not their techniques.

Duchamp, of course, is most famous for that urinal, but I prefer his more traditional cubist work.

And, according to Wikipedia, here’s what Joan Didion wrote about Kinkade:

A Kinkade painting was typically rendered in slightly surreal pastels. It typically featured a cottage or a house of such insistent coziness as to seem actually sinister, suggestive of a trap designed to attract Hansel and Gretel. Every window was lit, to lurid effect, as if the interior of the structure might be on fire.

Cool! Nude Descending a Staircase vs. House on Fire. Either one would be a worthy entry in the next round of competition.

P.S. As always, here’s the background, and here are the rules.


  1. Jonathan (another one) says:

    This one’s easy. Duchamp has nothing to teach in an academic seminar: epater les bourgeois, reconceptualize art in a time of technological change, the escalation of thought over technique, these are exactly the dominant paradigm in academia for the last 100 years… since Duchamp, come to think of it.

    On the other hand, the celebration of bourgeois virtues, the unapologetic focus on the market model, the escalation of the evocation of sentiment over the placement of work in historic context, that’s a seminar so in-your-face as to raise the strong possibility of fisticuffs and the occupation of campus buildings. Kincade’s in the house.

  2. Rahul says:

    Making an habit out of ritual territory marking through urination is fantastic enough to declare a win. Even among artists.

    Clearly more unique than mundane stuff other artists do like slicing off ears.

  3. Ellie says:

    Knowing nothing about Kinkade the man before this, and being quite familiar with his work through a lifetime of visiting Disney stores and kitschy grandmas’ houses, I was astounded to find that – among other similar transgressions – he pissed on a Pooh Bear at Disneyland, repeatedly screamed “Codpiece!!!” at Sigfried & Roy during a show, and (allegedly) ultimately met his demise — all under the influence of far too much alcohol. He also accused as selling his product under the umbrella of Christianity in order to drive sales among the gullible religious.

    Where Duchamp and Dadaism introduce the idea of modern life itself as a form of art, Kinkade lives a life in direct conflict with his art.

    Provided his lecture is a candid tell-all of what he *really* thought of his art and his consumer (and his mother?), Kinkade is in my opinion the clear winner here and my new underdog favorite in this competition.

    Disclaimer: Everything I know I learned on Wikipedia.

  4. Lee Jussim says:

    Andrew, love your blog, been following it for a while. I just found this “tournament.” I knew about the urinal, but did not otherwise know much about Duchamp. And you post “Nude Descending a Staircase.” On the following grounds, I vote for Duchamp: There was an 80s/90s retro punk/garage group, The Cramps, who created a new sub-genre — what is now called “Psychobilly.” It is rockabilly riffs put onto garage rock/punk rock noise steroids, and the “substance” is, as Pandora describes it, “glistening sex, monster movies, and the detritus of American culture.” Actually, their sound reminds me of a sorta proto-White Stripes, though the words are more like steamy pulp&horror fiction.

    They have songs like, “Sado County Auto Show” and “Goo Goo Muck” and “Surfin Dead” and “Bikini Girls with Machine Guns.”

    One of their songs is called “Naked Girl Falling Down the Stairs” (on an album called “Flamejob”), which struck me as very odd, even for them. Until I read your post.

    It NEVER occurred to me that that song might have been inspired by high art. I still can’t believe it, but the correspondence is too close to be coincidence. On those grounds alone I vote for Duchamp, who, I think, would have heartily approved of The Cramps.

    And now back to work (with a little psychobilly playing in the background…).


  5. Shecky R says:

    Time to instigate a rebellion: I’m doing a write-in for Bob Ross!… c’mon who’s with me!

    • Awesome me too. He just helped me put my preschooler to sleep and I found out some fascinating things. Like he was an air force drill sergeant!!!! And he perked his hair to cut down on the cost of haircuts while trying to make it as an artist but got stuck w the hairstyle when he became a TV hit. Also he made about 15 million dollars actually selling academic materials, mainly books and instruction videos and painting supplies. So definitely Bob Ross in a landslide write-in… Predict that pollsters!!!

      • Not to mention even if you like Duchamp what is more dadaist than the winner of a Duchamp-Kincaid matchup being Bob Ross? Its just too good to pass up.

      • Also, Bob Ross was a leader in the important area of Open Access publishing. His entire archive is available online at no cost through the internet archive:

        So, we’ve got a fascinating back story, success in academics despite early adoption of an open access model, and actual legitimate business success without duping his buyers (unlike Kincaid). Plus the dadaist result of a Duchamp-Kincaid matchup turning out to be a landslide write in victory by Bob Ross, which goes against everything our host has to say about the pre-predictability of elections. It’s Rob Ross by a knockout!

  6. Tulip says:

    Happy little tress! Woot!

  7. Anonymous says:

    I second the Bob Ross nomination. Duchamp and Kinkade will tell us about art, but Bob can teach us.

  8. Corey says:

    Nothing more restful than watching Bob Ross. I’m in.

  9. Robert Grant says:

    Good call. I anticipate a Thoreau-Russell final (inshallah). Though of course I’m disappointed at the notable lack of Virginia Woolf who had much to say about uptight men obsessed with their own academic prowess.

  10. mohit says:

    Nothing more restful than watching Bob Ross. I’m in.

  11. Chris G says:

    > Today we have a matchup between two artists!

    No. It’s a matchup between an artist and an appallingly popular hack. An hour with Duchamp would be interesting. An hour with Kinkade would be seppuku-inducing.

    Duchamp vs Richard Serra, now that would be a contest.

    • zbicyclist says:

      Maybe all the more reason to vote for Kincade.

      How many of us have a young relative trying to figure out how to make a living with his art — writing, sculpture, painting, music — whose economic circumstances would be improved if they could just figure out how to bottle 10% of “the painter of light”‘s magic?

      JUST KIDDING; agree with Chris G: I’d want to hear Duchamp.

  12. jonathan says:

    I want to hear Kinkade talk about how he sold dreck, how he came up with the idea that people would buy prints (!) and pay extra to have “master highlighters” add bits of actual paint to them. I want him to enfold us in his marketing.

  13. Ethan Bolker says:

    Duchamp. One of these days I’ll have a reason for my choice that will help persuade Andrew.

  14. The ‘urinal’ artist versus the ‘urinating at Disneyland’ artist — kudos to the random pairing generator!

    I agree with an earlier post that with Duchamp, we’re not likely to hear anything that we haven’t heard from the part century of art history and criticism, interesting though it is. With Kinkade, I wouldn’t know what to expect, and depending on how honest it is, it could be fascinating.

    Plus, a thinly disguised Kinkade lives in a secret underground lair in Antarctica in Mat Johnson’s “Pym,” an excellent novel!

    (I think my last attempt at this comment got an error message; sorry if it appears twice.)

  15. Evan Warfel says:

    Duchamp. Because Kinkade’s website’s tagline is ‘Official Site of the Painter of Light’, but I ain’t too sure he’d speak too bright. Duchamp, however, might wear lamp, and move his lecture to the nearest on-ramp. Ol’ Kinkade’s buildings ain’t up to code, if they’re conflagrated, they’re bound to explode. I like my stairs like I like my chess, with descendant nudes: Kinkade’s worlds seem full of prudes.

    Quoth Duchamp: “Another Dada, another Dollar.”

  16. Mike says:

    Supporting the Bob Ross write-in campaign. “We don’t make mistakes, we just have happy accidents” is what gets me through life. Also I’d be hoping he’d bring along his pet squirrel.

Leave a Reply