Cincinnati Art Museum Displays Rare Portable Museum

Cincinnati Art Museum Displays Rare Portable Museum

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Our art columnist shares fascinating history behind Boîte-en-valise that’s now in Cincinnati and has an interesting connection to the area.

Photo Credit: Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968), France, active in United States, Box in a Valise from or by Marcel Duchamp or Rrose Sélavy(Boîte-en-valise de ou par Marcel Duchamp ou Rrose Sélavy), conceived 1935–41, edition E assembled in Paris in 1963, green linen imitation leather covered box containing mixed-media assemblage/collage of miniature replicas, photographs, and color reproductions of works by Duchamp, Gift of Anne W. Harrison and Family in memory of Agnes Sattler Harrison and Alexina “Teeny” Sattler Duchamp, 16/17.27, © Association Marcel Duchamp / ADAGP, Paris / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 2018

Marcel Duchamp’s Boîteen-valise on view now through May 6, 2018

When Marcel Duchamp released Boîteen-valise (Box in a Valise) on January 1, 1941, it transformed twentieth-century art.

The artwork is a “portable museum” that contains 68 small-scale replicas, models and reproductions of Duchamp’s works, including paintings, drawings, objects and “ready-mades” (found objects presented as art). 

Each work in Boîteen-valise is labeled with title, medium, date and, in some cases, the owner of the original. Rather than creating new pieces, Duchamp was most interested in making replicas. This process was an extension of his other “ready-mades,” which challenged the ideas of originality and the value of unique works.

Packing artworks into a suitcase made it possible to smuggle the work out of France during the Nazi occupation. The Boîteen-valise was a way of reconstituting Duchamp’s life’s work and circulating it to a wide audience. It contains miniatures of his painting Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 (1912), which scandalized Americans when it was exhibited; the construction The Large Glass; and Fountain, a urinal signed with the pseudonym “R. Mutt.” 

Duchamp was a French-American painter, sculptor, chess player and writer whose work is associated with conceptual art and avant-garde art movements including Cubism and Dada. His goal was to serve the mind. 

The Boîteen-valise has a special connection to Cincinnati. In 1954 Duchamp married Alexina “Teeny” Sattler, a Cincinnati native. The work was given to Teeny’s sister Agnes and her husband with a special dedication on the Coeurs volants (Fluttering Hearts).

Photograph courtesy of the Harrison Family. 

This not-so-average Jo is a born-and-raised Cincinnatian on a quest for creativity. Joanna embraces her artistic side as the Marketing & Communications Coordinator at the Cincinnati Art Museum, where she has the pleasure of managing CAM’s Instagram page, leading the YP Culture + Cocktails program, and spearheading the museum’s community marketing initiative, among other tasks. Prior to joining the CAM family, Joanna graduated from Xavier University with a Bachelor of Arts in Advertising (Go Muskies!) and held positions at SORTA/Metro and Trivantis Corporation. Joanna is a yogi, cook, animal lover, and home beer brewer. She resides in Fairview with her husband and cat.