“If he were accused of dominating the show, he could say he took only what no one wanted–the ceiling and a small little spot on the floor; the accusation would underline his (gigantic) modesty, his (excessive) humility. No one looks at the ceiling; it isn’t choice territory–indeed it wasn’t (until then) territory at all. Hanging over your head, the largest piece in the show was unobtrusive physically but totally obtrusive psychologically.
In one of those bad puns that he loved, Duchamp turned the exhibition topsy-turvy and "stood you on your head.” The ceiling is the floor and the floor, to drive home the point, is the ceiling. For the stove on the floor– a makeshift brazier made from an old barrel, from the looks of it– became a chandelier. The police rightly wouldn’t let him put a fire in it, so he settled for a light bulb. Above (below) are 1,200 bags of fuel and below (above) is their consuming organ. A temporal perspective stretches between, at the end of which is an empty ceiling, a conversion of mass to energy, ashes, maybe a comment on history and on art.
This inversion is the first time an artist subsumed an entire gallery space in a single gesture– and managed to do so while it was full of other art.“
–Brian O'Doherty, from Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space