One year before WWII broke out, Marcel Duchamp packed the entirety of his works in the smallest possible space: a commercial traveler suitcase. Escaping German occupation with an identity card that indicated he was a cheese merchant, he succeeded in carrying samples to Marseille and then to New York.
Of course, the suitcase was to be a work of art in itself and it was to be known as Boîte-en-valise, or box in a suitcase.
A cardboard portable museum (about 300 copies made), Boîte-en-valise contained between 68 and 83 (depending on the edition) – miniature replicas, photographs and color reproductions of Duchamp’s works. Dimensions: 40,7 x 38,1 x 10,2 cm. The deluxe edition is a set of 20 copies, numbered I to XX and autographed, whose first ones included a celluloid reproduction of Glider Containing a Water Mill in Neighbouring Metals.
The arrangement of the components is extremely rigorous, as much as his previous Boite Verte was completely jumbled. As recounted by Jean Clair in Marcel Duchamp Catalogue Raisonné, Vol. II, Paris, 1977: “three ready-mades are placed on the three levels of the Large Glass; the urinal is set at the level of the Chariot and its “onanistic” litanies; the folding stool for travelling is level with the garments of the Mariée; and, finally, the phial of Paris air is exalted to the heights of the Milky Way. In 1959, a similar precision reappears in artwork done for publication in book form in cooperation with Robel Lebel. (excerpt from: Museums by Artists, Edited by AA Bronson & Peggy Gale)
*: Title quote from Life magazine (Vol. XXXII, No.17, p.102)
Images in black and white from: Museums by Artists, Edited by AA Bronson & Peggy Gale