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Fascinating World of Junk Art

Updated on August 8, 2015

Marcel Ducamp's "Fountain"

There’s an old adage which says “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” Nowhere is this truer than in the world of junk art. It began in the early 20th century as a subgenre of “found art,” works made completely from discarded manufactured objects artists found.

Found art was considered a radical art form in its early years because many didn’t view it as true art. Marcel Ducamp is arguably considered the father of found art, although he called it, "readymade.” One of his most famous works created in 1917 titled "Fountain," was made from a urinal and turned the art world on its ear when it was put on exhibit. The straight laced Society of Independent Artists rejected its’ submission.

However, the concept was embraced by more enlightened artists like Man Ray and Francis Picabia. From this meager beginning the art was born…or was it?

Some experts believe the concept emerged from earlier African art in the 19th century. The use of found nails, cowry shells, and hair in African objects suggests the technique had its origins in Africa. In any case, it became more popular through what is known as the Dada movement.

Dadaism was an anti-war cultural movement that began in Switzerland during World War I from 1916 to1922. The movement involved visual arts, literature, poetry, art manifestoes, art theory, theater and graphic design. Its purpose was considered anti-war politics by rejecting prevailing standards in art. Their anti-art cultural works ridiculed the meaninglessness of the modern world.

“Tea Bird” Colin G. Jeffrey 2008

Bed Frame Trellis

In the 19th century, a famous French writer drew attention to the new emerging classification with the well known phrase, "Beautiful as the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on a dissecting table."

By 1936 many sub-classifications had been made. Some of these are:

· found objects

· readymade objects

· perturbed objects

· mathematical objects

· natural objects

· interpreted natural objects

· incorporated natural objects

· Oceanic objects

· American objects

· garden objects

· Surrealist objects

A Surrealist leader defined readymades as "manufactured objects raised to the dignity of works of art through the choice of the artist."

Another sub-genre of found art is trash or junk art. These works are primarily made up of discarded objects. Many organizations sponsor junk art competitions. Some say these competitions also raise public awareness about waste management. However, caution must be taken by those considering taking up this art form. There is a danger of encountering hazardous substances. For instance, some older computer and electronic components may contain lead in their solder and insulation. Jewelry made from these items need to be closely scrutinized.

Although the art form may have found acceptance in America and other countries, throughout the 1990s it was rejected by the general public, journalists, public museums and art critics in Britain.

Some artists work with Junk metal to create sculptures. This is popular among both professional and amateur artists. Others specialize and use only certain items to make things like computer part animals. Best of all, old computer parts are plentiful.

Junk metal also makes attractive yard objects, like a birdhouse out of an old gas can. You can make a roof out of flat metal plates or old ceiling tiles. There are many junk art ideas that can be found on the web. You are only limited by your imagination.


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    • profile image

      Diana Abrahamson 

      6 years ago

      Love creative art made from unusual things that you can pick up at auctions. Eco friendly art is the way to go. Thanks!

    • JY3502 profile imageAUTHOR

      John Young 

      7 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      Paradise, technically it IS all junk, thundermama's glue gun not withstanding.

      zann17 I think I would've just made a bicycle out of the parts. LOL

    • zann17 profile image


      7 years ago from Bristol, England

      I've been to a gallery where animals were made out of metal stuff and other parts. A rhino was made out of an oil drum, a deer was made out of bicycle parts. It was great, just as unique as Banksy's gallery.

    • Paradise7 profile image


      7 years ago from Upstate New York

      I have mixed feelings about art using found objects, or junk. Some I like; I find it inventive or funny or telling in some way. Other pieces are just junk, all welded together (or glued, if you happen to be Thundermama and have found the missing glue gun!); senseless juxtapositions of unwanted objects don't appeal to my artistic sense at all.

    • JY3502 profile imageAUTHOR

      John Young 

      7 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      Uh...probably right where you left it. :-)

    • Thundermama profile image

      Catherine Taylor 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Love this hub. you have rekindle my desire to make art from anything and everything. Now where did I put my glue gun?


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