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Duchamp, Boite-en-valise (the red box), series F

Marcel Duchamp, Boite-en-valise (the red box), series F, 1960 (Portland Art Museum) Speakers: Bruce Guenther, Dr. Beth Harris. Created by Beth Harris and Steven Zucker.

Video transcript

We are here in the Portland Art Museum in the Jubilee Center for Modern and Contemporary Art In front of Marcel Duchamp's landmark Boite-en-valise The red box, series F When I hear the word "valise" I think of could carry around Like a suitcase. Yeah. Like a suitcase. I think my grandmother used "valise" for a suitcase Exactly, and we use backpacks. It's a new nomenclature. Duchamp at the end of world war one had seen in the desturction in Europe. He was a painter, he saw his brother injured in battle and die He came back to Paris and he said "My work could be lost for the ages" and he decided to reproduce everything and make his own history His own musuem in a suitcase. He packaged himself Absolutely. In a new an completely unbranded way. He reproduced a new descending staircase all of his cubist and vaguely surrealist paintings on reproductions It's like a retrospective in a box. Absolutely and you know the interesting thing about this box is that he updates it twice so that the box here at the Portland Art Museum is a box that he created as an addition For Schwartz in Italy in 1960 How many are there? 100 There are 100 boxes In the red version There are red, green, leather and tan versions The earliest version is actually a Valise A leather valise, because these are mechanically reproduced objects he had a little cottage industry He prints a bunch of them but they never get assembled and so when Schwartz comes to him in the '60s and says I want to do the Boite-de-valise as a real addition Duchamp says okay I happened to have a stack of them right here. I never put them together And so his wife Teeny sat in Paris apartment gluing the reproductions onto these black cardboard backgrounds and little labels they had made and they created this retrospective in a box And there is something to me that's sort of about the idea of the artist packaging himself Selling himself, almost like a traveling salesman going around to galleries and try to get their work There is something about that artist and the commercial environment. As a curator I always immidiately pullback when someone introduces themselves as an artist Because the modern artist carried slides and now they carry an iPhone with their entire work on it Sort of like Duchamp but in the technology of today as opposed to the reproductive technology of his age What I find interesting and beautiful about this is the variety Because he was both a painter and a sculptor in the sense that the ready made was a sculpture We have the tiny verison of a urel The entire thing was a ready made He gave us his lifes work to that date as a ready made surrogate For the experience. None of it is an original print in the sense of an artist pulled, plate numbered and signed but in fact these are all mechanically reproduced From images that may or may not have been an original work of art in the first place What's great to me about it is this kind of embracing of mechanical reproduction Which is sort of a thread through all of Duchamp's work and a sort of loss of the aura of the original Which was always a sort of issue that Duchamp confronted You'll notive that this object is sitting not in 1929 when he first concieves it but it sits here in the Jubit centre halfway up in the 1960-70 when America discovers his ideas When Duchamp becomes the grandfather of pop and of Cindy Sherman and Richard Prince and all of the artists who practice appropriation and Sherry Levine and all of that Absolutely and Sherry Levine who would not exist without Duchamp And this little miniturization of them too it's like little souveniers A little Duchamp souvenir It's like Warhol, your little vail of the air of Paris Right here