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Good News for SEMA Car Builders: Duchamp's The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even Enters the Public Domain Next Year

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It’s been two decades since copyrighted works were allowed to enter the public domain, but next year, the 20-year hiatus that was instituted in 1998 will finally end, and in 2019 all copyrighted works from 1923 will be available for anyone to use, modify, be inspired by, or anything else, as they will be public domain. This is especially important for car customizers, who I imagine have been chomping at the bit for Marcel Duchamp’s iconic Dadaist work, The Large Glass (The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even) to become available for use in designing custom cars.


The Large Glass (The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even), started in 1915, finished in 1923, is a fascinating and often baffling work. It’s a nine-foot tall structure made from two panes of glass, much like a window, with the upper ‘pane’ known as the “bride’s domain.” This upper pane contains a strange insect/mechanical-like “bride” image and the “halo,” a cloud-like form with three roughly square-shaped windows punched into it.

In lower pane “The Bachelor Machine” resides, an assemblage made in part from other Duchamp works, including Nine Malic Moulds and the Chocolate Grinder, among other spindly, mechanical-looking constructions.


The work was dropped and shattered, which Duchamp repaired and decided he like the look of the shattered glass and the role that chance played in the work, so the cracks were left in and are now part of the piece.

There aren’t easy interpretations of the meaning of the piece, likely as Duchamp intended, though there have been a huge number of readings of it over the years, with a number alluding to the implied erotic nature of the piece as implied by the title, though some interpretations have cast this in a stunted, frustrated context, with one critic even referring to the “bachelors” in the lower pane limited to “churning, agonized masturbation” as their only erotic outlet.

As you can imagine, with such interpretations and the possibility of so many more, this piece has long been considered the holy grail for automotive customizers, even if there’s no evidence to back this assumption up.

I’m pretty sure that car customizers, especially those in the SEMA community, are giddy with delight at the possibility of building some The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even-themed cars.


My prediction is that at the 2019 SEMA show, we’ll see multiple Large Glass-inspired builds, likely with the famous elements of the work reproduced in the glass of the cars themselves, and possibly with fully realized, kinetic models of the Bride or Bachelors mounted on the cars.

It’s an exciting time in both the worlds of Dadaist art and car customization, that’s for damn sure.