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De ou par Marcel Duchamp ou Rrose Sélavy (La boîte-en-valise)

De ou par Marcel Duchamp ou Rrose Sélavy (La boîte-en-valise)

Marcel Duchamp (in 1952)

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The French Dadaist Marcel Duchamp made the first version of this case on 1 January 1941. Some 300 of them were finally produced. The case contains Duchamp's complete oeuvre reproduced in the form of 69 carefully constructed miniature replicas and black and white reproductions coloured in by hand. The contents of the case includes the famous urinoir and the masterpiece 'La Mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même'. In this way, Duchamp created a portable museum, in which his work as a whole is exhibited. The works are reproductions of earlier works, but are, at the same time, unique handmade pieces. Together they form a museum, which is presented in its entirety as a new work of art. Duchamp did this with an irony typical of him: the case is most like that of a travelling salesman. , In Marcel Duchamp's view a work of art did not need to be unique in order to merit that description. He was one of the first to make multiples, art in editions. His most famous multiple, the 'Boîte-en-Valise', also infringed a second unwritten rule, that of the difference between original and reproduction. In the case, of which the first was completed on 1January 1941 and around 300 were made in all, he reproduced his entire oeuvre in the form of 69 carefully made miniature replicas and reproductions in colour and black and white. In this way he created a portable museum, in which his oeuvre could be shown as a whole. This he did with a characteristic irony: the case most closely resembles that of a salesman.

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Specifications

Title De ou par Marcel Duchamp ou Rrose Sélavy (La boîte-en-valise)
Material and technique Cardboard, wood, colour photographs, black and white photographs, mica
Object type
Assemblage > Three-dimensional object > Art object
Location This object is in storage
Dimensions Height 41 cm
Length 38 cm
Width 10.5 cm
Artists Kunstenaar: Marcel Duchamp
Accession number MB 1990/3 (MK)
Credits Aankoop / Purchase: Stichting Fonds Willem van Rede 1990
Department Modern Art
Acquisition date 1990
Age artist About 65 years old
Collector Collector / W. van Rede
Exhibitions Marcel Duchamp, Kunstenaar - Knutselaar (2013)
Gek van surrealisme (2017)
External exhibitions Dal nulla al sogno (2018)
Research Digitising Contemporary Art
Material
Object
Technique
Offset print > Mechanical > Planographic printing > Printing technique > Technique > Material and technique
Gelatin silver print > Bromide print > Photographic printing technique > Mechanical > Planographic printing > Printing technique > Technique > Material and technique
Gouache > Drawing technique > Technique > Material and technique
Geographical origin France > Western Europe > Europe

Author Bert Jansen

La boîte-en-valise is a kind of personal oeuvre catalogue, made as a portable miniature museum. It contains sixty-eight of Marcel Duchamp’s most important artworks in the form of photographic reproductions and some miniature replicas. He began to make it in Paris in 1935 after the publication of the notes for Le Grand Verre in La boîte verte. By that time a large part of his oeuvre was already in one American private collection, that of Walter and Louise Arensberg, and so not accessible to the public. He used La boîte-en-valise to make his oeuvre public and show it as a coherent entity. The valise is essentially an expandable box which can be transformed into a three-dimensional scale model to mimic the walls of an exhibition gallery. For the most part the material came from earlier publications, of which Duchamp had had extra copies made.

The artist put together the first three valises in Paris in the spring of 1941. During the Nazi occupation he secretly moved the material to Vichy, after which it was shipped to New York by way of Portugal. At the end of 1942, Duchamp himself returned to New York, where he continued to assemble the material. The first twenty versions of La boîte-en-valise were reserved for friends and a few museums and contained an original artwork that he considered appropriate for the recipient. The valises were produced in different stages.[1] The last series appeared in 1971, three years after the artist’s death. As planned, three hundred copies were made. Arturo Schwarz, who worked on an oeuvre catalogue in collaboration with the artist, identified seven series, from A to G. The example owned by Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, from the B series, is one of the fifteen copies the New York gallery owner Rose Fried sold between 1952 and 1954.

With the acquisition of La boîte verte and La boîte-en-valise in 1990 the museum obtained two key works in the artist’s oeuvre. Both give an idea of the way Duchamp put the concept of uniqueness and reproducibility into perspective. They also make clear that an essential aspect of Duchamp’s oeuvre lay in the relationship between the individual works – a relationship which, in the case of La boîte-en-valise, was expressed in his decision to make a miniature museum he put together himself. The fact that ideas about uniqueness and multiples in post-1960 art have changed is to a significant extent attributable to Duchamp. He had a huge influence on the development of the post-modern concept of art and his influence still makes itself felt in contemporary art. Duchamp’s position in Dada and Surrealism and his impact on generations of artists that came after him is why Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen has been collecting his work since 1989.[2] 

 

Footnotes

[1] See Bonk 1989.

[2] See De Jonge 1995.

 

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