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This Boîte-en-valise by
Marcel Duchamp is the perfect union of innovative conceptual thought and meticulous technical execution.
What we see here is a virtual museum in portable miniature — 69 reproductions of Duchamp’s own career-crowning works elegantly arranged in a hand-carried suitcase. Duchamp created each of these reproductions with the same hard-to-find inks and paper supports he had used for the originals. In fact, he had to sneakily export these rare materials from Marseille to New York, where he produced the series under the guise of a traveling cheese purveyor!
This particular example dates from Duchamp’s Series A production — the most coveted series in which each valise was hand-assembled by the artist himself, dedicated to its first owner and distinguished with a unique work inside the suitcase’s cover. Duchamp’s first order for a work from this Series A was from Peggy Guggenheim.
Within the valise sold for $2,965,000 on 14 May in New York, Duchamp inscribed the name of its first owner, ‘Orin Raphael’, whose fiancée Elizabeth Rockwell opened Outlines Gallery, the first gallery in Pittsburgh to show modern art, and in fact one which Andy Warhol often visited.
Duchamp’s Boîte-en-valise series has influenced major figures within the 20th century art historical canon, from Warhol to Richter and beyond. Duchamp was also a close friend of Joseph Cornell (who even helped in some of the valise productions). This fantastic Boîte-en-valise, marrying Duchamp’s revolutionary vision and keen technical prowess, paved a groundbreaking path for generations of artists to come.
Main image at top: Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), Untitled, 1944. Estimate: $1,000,000–1,800,000. Sold for $2,965,000 on 14 May 2015 at Christie’s New York © Succession Marcel Duchamp/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2015
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