|Duchamp's Boîte-en-valise, or box in a suitcase, is a portable miniature monograph including sixty-nine reproductions of the artist's own work. Between 1935 and 1940, he created a deluxe edition of twenty boxes, each in a brown leather carrying case but with slight variations in design and content. A later edition consisting of six different series was created during the 1950s and 1960s; these eliminated the suitcase, used different colored fabrics for the cover, and altered the number of items inside. Each box unfolds to reveal pull-out standing frames displaying Nude Descending a Staircase and other works, diminutive Readymades hung in a vertical "gallery," and loose prints mounted on paper. Duchamp included in each deluxe box one "original." In The Museum of Modern Art's Boîte-en-valise, this is a hand-colored print depicting the upper half of The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even, or Large Glass (1915-23). Among the reproductions found in the box is L.H.O.O.Q., a rectified Readymade created by taking a cheap print of the Mona Lisa and adding a moustache, goatee, and lascivious pun (understood when the letters L-H-O-O-Q are pronounced rapidly in French to mean "she's got a hot ass"). Duchamp's boxes, along with his altered Mona Lisa, address museums' ever-increasing traffic in reproductions and question the relative importance of the "original" work of art.
Boîte-en-valise (de ou par Marcel Duchamp ou Rrose S■lavy). 1935-41.
Leather valise containing miniature replicas, photographs, and color reproductions of works by Duchamp, and one "original" (Large Glass, collotype on celluloid), (69 items) overall 16 x 15 x 4" (40.6 x 38.1 x 10.2 cm). IX/XX from Deluxe Edition. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. James Thrall Soby Fund. © Succession Marcel Duchamp ARS New York/ADAGP Paris 1998. Photo: John Wronn, ©1999 The Museum of Modern Art, New York