Artwork Detail

Boîte-en-valise (Box in a Valise), series B
c. 1942–54
American, b. France, 1887–1969
Cardboard box containing miniature replicas and printed reproductions
3 1/16 x 15 3/8 x 13 3/4 "
University purchase, Bixby Fund, with funds from Aurelia Gerhard Schlapp and Samuel Kootz Gallery, by exchange, 2015
WU 2015.0002 a-ppp
Duchamp's Boîte-en-valise (Box in a Valise) is a portable miniature monograph consisting of sixty-seven small-scale reproductions of the artist’s own work, all cleverly installed like a museum exhibition complete with frames and labels. Duchamp spent five years, between 1935 and 1940, recreating his oeuvre in miniature through photographs, hand-colored reproductions, and diminutive models. Then over the following twenty-seven years he created approximately three hundred versions of the Box, spanning seven editions, between 1941 and 1968. The Box unfolds to reveal pull-out standing frames displaying such works as The Large Glass (1915–23), Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2) (1912), and readymades like his once-scandalous urinal Fountain (1917) hung on the “wall.” Duchamp’s intensive practice of reproduction undercut accepted notions of originality and authenticity and complemented his belief that there was nothing inherently sacred about the work of art, that the idea behind an art object is more important than the object itself. The format—an exhibition in a case—unmistakably references a salesman’s sample kit, amplifying Duchamp’s sly critique of the art object as commodity. [Permanent collection label, 2015]