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Boite-En-Valise (Box in a Suitcase), 1961 (original 1941)

Marcel Duchamp

French, 1887-1968
Cardboard box containing 68 miniature replicas and reproductions, Series D of 1961, Edition of 30
16 x 14-3/4 x 3-1/2 in. (40.6 x 37.5 x 8.9 cm)
Norton Simon Museum, Museum Purchase
© Succession Marcel Duchamp / ADAGP, Paris / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 2016 Reproduction, including downloading of ARS works is prohibited by copyright laws and international conventions without the express written permission of Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Not on view

Marcel Duchamp, one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, eagerly debated complex questions related to artistic authorship, the nature of the original or unique object and the validity of the idea as art. He is best known for his readymades—found or manufactured objects whose previous purpose is rendered useless, owing to their new classification by the artist. Boite-en-Valise operates much like a mini-museum whose enduring exhibit is a retrospective devoted to the oeuvre of its maker. Duchamp orchestrated this complex assemblage, a new form of expression in its own right, as a record of his life’s work and, in its editioned states, as a souvenir.

The box and its contents—reproductions of his early paintings, sculptures and readymades—function much like a still life. Its arranged motifs are signifiers in a system, presented here in the framework of a box that is its own cultural category. In this case, they refer to the maker’s creativity and genius. Of particular significance to the genre of still life is the intimation of death and of the desire to be remembered.

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