In art, readymades were first named and discussed by Marcel Duchamp, who used the term “ready-made” to refer to works of art created from ordinary manufactured objects. The term is often used in relation to pop art.
In readymades, sometimes ordinary objects are modified by artists, while other times they are used as-is. Artists have also made readymades by altering existing artworks.
Duchamp’s famous readymade was a urinal, which he titled Fountain. He signed it “R. Mutt”, a play on the name of the actual manufacturer, Mott Iron Works.
Other artists have made readymades from more unusual objects, such as a pair of socks (Cindy Sherman), a human skull (Kiki Smith), or a live cat (Paul McCarthy).
Some readymades are designed to be interactive, such as the “interactive” readymades of Erwin Wurm, which invite viewers to handle them or sit on them.
Readymades can also be found in other forms of art, such as music (John Cage’s 4’33”), film (Andy Warhol’s 8-hour film Sleep), and poetry (E. E. Cummings’ poem “l(a)luncheon”).
While readymades are sometimes seen as a type of found object art, they can also be seen as a type of ready-made art, in that they are created specifically to be used as works of art.