Marcel Duchamp: The Readymade as Reproduction

View Works

In 1913, Duchamp jotted down the following note: “Can one make works which are not works of ‘art’?” That same year he conceived his first readymade, Bicycle Wheel—assembled from pre-existing manufactured objects—immediately altering the definition of what constitutes an art object. In 1935, Duchamp began Box in a Valise (From or by Marcel Duchamp or Rrose Sélavy), a catalogue of his work to date. Featuring photographic reproductions, minute replicas of several readymades, and one original work, Box in a Valise combines the format of a retrospective exhibition with that of an album of photographs. Rather than use the quick photographic techniques then available, Duchamp combined collotype printing with the elaborate pochoir method, in which color is applied by hand with the use of stencils. He thus produced “authorized ‘original’ copies,” blurring the boundaries between unique artwork, readymade, and multiple. Further challenging the idea of originality, he “copyrighted” these facsimiles in the name of his female alter ego, Rrose Sélavy.