‘La-boîte-en-valise’ (Box in a Valise) is a small leather carrying case which opens up into a small exhibition of Marcel Duchamp’s work, complete with folding frames, consisting of 69 miniature replicas and reproductions of his work, including a mini urinal and depictions of famous works such as ‘The Large Glass’ and ‘Nude Descending a Staircase’. The case fits very well within Duchamp’s oeuvre, as he decided at the beginning of the twentieth century to stop making art in the traditional manner. He even went so far as to sign existing objects and declare them to be art, thereby creating the ready-made, an event that was of huge influence on the development of modern art: a work of art no longer had to be unique or made by the artist himself. This prompted much discussion about the significance of an “original” artwork. His case full of reproductions echoes this development. Even so, Duchamp still added an original work of art (a drawing) to the first deluxe edition of 20 cases, which includes the Stedelijk’s copy.
The Stedelijk has Duchamp himself to thank for its ownership of a case from this first series, numbered XX/XX. It was he who suggested to Katherine Dreier, a prominent American art-collector and a good friend of Duchamp, that she should donate this case to the museum in 1949.