Designer: Mathieu Mercier (from Marcel Duchamp's original)
Publisher: Walther Koenig for The Philadelphia Museum of Art
Materials: 69 reproductions of Duchamp's works
Dimensions: 14.75 x 14.75"
Details: Box / suitcase format with loose reproductions inside
"Everything important that I have done can be put into a little suitcase," Duchamp said in 1952.
One of the most important and enigmatic pieces of modernist art, Boîte-en-valise (Box in a Valise) was assembled by Marcel Duchamp between 1935 and 1941. The portable suitcase contains "the sum of his artistic work" up to that point. Perhaps in premonition of the coming war, and over years without a fixed address, Duchamp reproduced his work in a format that enabled him to easily transport his "complete works" at any time. Though the artist eventually made 300 copies of his box, many are behind glass in museums and private collections.
This is the first ever reinterpretation of the legendary book-object, conceptualized by French artist Mathieu Mercier and now available to a broader audience. At once a work in and of itself, and a reproduction in the Duchampian spirit, this miniature museum contains 69 reproductions of Duchamp's most celebrated creations, including the famous Fountain, Nude Descending a Staircase and the Large Glass. Mercier has reproduced the bulk of the contents of Duchamp's original box in paper form, designing everything to scale. Playful and accessible, the "Boîte" reflects Duchamp's desire to display his works outside the museum and gallery system.
A limited-edition replica, entitled Marcel Duchamp: Boîte-en-valise (or of Marcel Duchamp or Rrose Sélavy) was created under the supervision of the artist Mathieu Mercier and first published in 2015. Matthew Affron, Curator of Modern Art at The Philadelphia Museum of Art, broke down a few of the 69 miniature works contained inside.
1. Apolinère Enameled, Duchamp’s original work of 1916-17, was an advertisement on a tin plate for a brand of paint that the artist altered in playful ways, while the reproduction he made for his Box in a Valise was a photographic print with applied watercolor and embossing.
2. Starting in 1913, Duchamp began working with ordinary manufactured objects, such as this iron stand for putting bottles up to dry, as a way of turning his back on the traditional craft of painting.
3. This is a reproduction (originally in letterpress) of Duchamp’s Chocolate Grinder (No. 2) of 1914, a cold, precise painting of a large industrial machine.
4. One of Duchamp’s many investigations of optical illusions, this blue-and-red heart (originally a paper collage made to be reproduced in 1936 on the cover of a Paris art magazine) seems to wobble when looked at under dim light.
5. This is a miniature reproduction in molded porcelain of one of Duchamp’s most notorious works, an ordinary man’s urinal that triggered a public scandal when it was submitted under the title Fountain to an art exhibition in New York in 1917.
6. The original, an ordinary typewriter cover with nothing underneath, was lost after its presentation at a New York gallery in 1916.
7. Here we have a three-dimensional reproduction in glass of the ethereal 50 cc of Paris Air (1919), a sealed medicine vial full of nothing but the atmosphere of the city from which it came.
8. The Large Glass (1915-23), a nine-foot-high “painting” in mixed materials on the reverse of two glass panes and the major work of Duchamp’s early career, was included in the original Box in a Valise as a photographically-derived reproduction on transparent celluloid.
9. This is a two-sided reproduction of a freestanding window surrounded by a bit of wall with painted imitation brickwork that Duchamp had a carpenter construct in 1921.
10. Wedge of Chastity (1954) belongs to a handful of small cast sculptures that make visual puns based on human sex organs.
11. This is one of a set of twelve designs from 1935 printed on cardboard disks; when it is rotated on a turntable, the illusion of a three-dimensional image in perspective appears.
12. In 1940, Duchamp designed the cardboard container that opens in various ways to reveal the contents of the Box in a Valise.
13. This folded sheet with four pages contains puns and word games made up by Duchamp.
14. In 1923, Duchamp made a wry self-portrait by modifying the text of a gag “Wanted” poster and inserting profile and full-face photographs of himself.
15. Commenting on the relationship of art to commerce, this item reproduces a handmade facsimile of a bank check that Duchamp made by hand, wrote out to his dentist in 1919, and later bought back at a price higher than the amount listed on it.
Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968) studied painting in Paris. In 1912 he exhibited his controversial Nude Descending a Staircase, and by 1913 he had abandoned traditional painting and drawing for more experimental forms, including mechanical drawings, studies and notations. In 1914 he introduced his readymades. Duchamp became associated with the Dada movement in Paris and in New York, where he settled permanently in 1942.