Marcel Duchamp and the strange perils of Do It Yourself Chess Sets

Sep 4, 2016, 9:34 AM |

I got a surprising amount of reads for my last post. Obviously collecting and producing Chess sets is a topic of interest to users.  So I decided to follow up with some more articles.


Marcel Duchamp was a famed French artist who was enamored with Chess.  You can watch a video with him explaining some of his thoughts on chess here. There is also a book about how chess affected his art. 


Duchamp is also famous for designing a beautiful art deco chess set.  And this knight  phpWDC49j.jpegis just an example of the pieces. What is truly great is that the chess set is more than decorative. You could play with it and not be distracted. I wonder if non chess playing artists who are inspired by Duchamp really understand this part of his achievement.


All this is just background to the Do It Yourself part.  Scott Kildall  and Bryan Cera created 3D printable files and posted them so anyone could have the Duchamp pieces if they had access to a 3D printer.  Unfortunately they ran afoul of the Duchamp estate. To the Duchamp's estate's credit they were not against the distribution but were worried that the files would be used by a manufacturer to mass produce the set which would degrade the artistic aspect of the pieces.


The response was to create the same pieces with mustaches hoping that creating the set as a parody would be fair use and not a violation of copyright laws. It was also an homage to Duchamp's painting of the Mona Lisa with a mustache and goatee.  Kildall and Cera also did not post any 3D files like they did with the original pieces.


So DIY 3D printing is not the way to go  unless one absolutely knows for sure that is legal to do so. Maybe the best way is old fashioned restoration.