It’s well known that hugely influential French artist Marcel Duchamp, after basically introducing the world to the category of “conceptual art,” abandoned the art world for a new obsession, chess, in his early thirties. He qualified as a chess master by achieving a draw in the Third French Chess Championship in 1925 (for which he designed the poster, below).
Duchamp’s wife became so consternated at his obsession with the game that she glued his pieces to his board. He designed a handsome chess set, which, as far as I can tell, has never been mass-produced (meanwhile, editions of Man Ray’s minimalist chess set fetch prices of $200 and up).
At the MakerBot.Thingiverse website, Scott Kildall and Bryan Cera have generated a 3D-printable version of Duchamp’s chess set, with the witty title “Readymake” (all of Duchamp’s most famous artistic interventions were called “readymades”):
Readymake: Duchamp Chess Set is a 3D-printed chess set generated from an archival photograph of Marcel Duchamp’s own custom and hand-carved game. His original physical set no longer exists. We have resurrected the lost artifact by digitally recreating it, and then making the 3D files available for anyone to print.
Inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s readymade—an ordinary manufactured object that the artist selected and modified for exhibition—the readymake brings the concept of the appropriated object to the realm of the internet, exploring the web’s potential to re-frame information and data, and their reciprocal relationships to matter and ideas. Readymakes transform photographs of objects lost in time into shared 3D digital spaces to provide new forms and meanings.
Here’s a lovely French-language documentary (with English subtitles) about Duchamp called “Jeu d’échecs” (A Game of Chess) that covers both his extravagantly impressive artistic resume as well as his interest in chess: