In the early 20th century a posse of Dadaist artists dragged objects out of hardware stores and dusty closets, put them on pedistals and called them art. While typically attributed to Marcel Duchamp, the performance artist and wonderful weirdo Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven may have kicked off the idea by submitting a urinal signed ‘R. Mutt’ to an art show organized by Duchamp. First officially defined in André Breton and Paul Éluard’s Dictionnaire abrégé du Surréalisme, a readymade is “an ordinary object elevated to the dignity of a work of art by the mere choice of an artist.” Readymades were intended to be a slap in the face to traditional ideas about what art is and how it’s valued, and it worked.
Reed Enger, "Readymade," in Obelisk Art History, Published August 03, 2017; last modified August 03, 2017, http://arthistoryproject.com/subjects/readymade/.