Hat rack was originally suspended from the ceiling of Duchamp's New York studio at 33 West 67th Street in 1916-17 and, like many of the Ready-mades nominated by the artist, contradicts its normal function. Trébuchet, a coat rack screwed to the floor, was made at about the same time. Asked why he occasionally hung works from the ceiling, Duchamp replied that it was to escape the conformity which dictated that works of art should be hung on a wall or presented on an easel.1
The Hat rack — hanging from the ceiling and casting a shadow against the wall — was recorded in photographs of Duchamp's New York studio.2 Shadows, real as opposed to illusionistic projections of three-dimensional objects on a flat surface, fascinated Duchamp, and a discussion of their properties figured prominently in his extensive notes for The bride stripped bare by her bachelors, even, which he worked on in New York from 1916 until 1923.3 Shadows of the Bicycle wheel and the Hat rack were also depicted in the painting Tu m' (Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.), completed in New York in 1918.
Like many of the Read-mades, the original Hat rack was lost. This example is from an edition of eight produced by Galleria Schwarz, Milan, in 1964 under the supervision of Duchamp. Two further unnumbered examples of this edition were reserved for Duchamp and Arturo Schwarz.
Michael Lloyd & Michael Desmond European and American Paintings and Sculptures 1870-1970 in the Australian National Gallery 1992 p.118.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra