Skip to main content

Dartmouth Home | Search | Index Dartmouth home page

Search this Site

 FaceBook Icon Twitter Icon Instagram Icon TouTube Icon
Hood Museum of Art
Dartmouth College
Hanover, NH 03755

Subscribe: RSS

Marcel Duchamp

The Box in a Valise

April 7 through August 26, 2012

Marcel Duchamp: The Box in a Valise

Marcel Duchamp, Box in a Valise, 1966, mixed-media assemblage: red leather box containing miniature replicas, photographs, and color reproductions of eighty works by Marcel Duchamp. Purchased through the Mrs. Harvey P. Hood W'18 Fund, the Florence and Lansing Porter Moore 1937 Fund, the Miriam and Sidney Stoneman Acquisitions Fund, and the William S. Rubin Fund; 2011.49. © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris / Succession Marcel Duchamp


Lecture by Hood Director Michael Taylor

Director Michael Taylor delivered a lecture on Boîte-en-valise (Box in a Valise) at the Hood Museum of Art on April 4, 2012. Click to watch his lecture from the Hood's playlist.

Marcel Duchamp described his Boîte-en-valise (Box in a Valise) as a "portable museum" that would allow him to carry around his life's work in a traveling box. The artist spent five years, between 1935 and 1940, recreating his oeuvre in miniature through photographs, hand-colored reproductions, and diminutive models. These facsimiles of his major paintings, drawings, and sculpture provided the source material for an edition of more than three hundred boxes that he would spend the rest of his life assembling, including this work, which was recently acquired for the museum's permanent collection. Duchamp's most significant works are cleverly arranged inside each box like a traveling salesman's wares; open the lid and you find a treasure trove of art objects, all reproduced on a Lilliputian scale. Eventually the artist grew tired of the repetitive and time-consuming nature of the project and hired assistants to help him complete the set. Among them was the young American artist Joseph Cornell, who would later become famous for his own box constructions.

Why Duchamp should want to faithfully reproduce the highlights of his artistic career in miniature and pack them into a small, imitation-leather suitcase has been the subject of great discussion since the first Box in a Valise appeared in 1941. One hypothesis is that Duchamp was humorously commenting on his meager artistic output. Unlike Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, who created a prodigious number of works of art, Duchamp had deliberately limited his artistic production. The Box in a Valise can thus be seen as a self-deprecating joke, with an undertone of criticism for the excesses of his fellow artists, which allowed Duchamp to proudly claim that his oeuvre was so small that he could fit it in a small suitcase. Duchamp's willingness to reproduce his works in miniature may also have stemmed from his belief that there was nothing inherently sacred about a work of art, and that the idea behind an art object was more important than the object itself. Duchamp's use of replication and appropriation to undercut accepted notions of originality and authenticity was hugely important to subsequent generations of artists, including the Fluxus group, which responded enthusiastically to the ideas behind the Box in a Valise in their Fluxkits, many of which are in the collection of the Hood Museum of Art.

Press coverage: Click here to read an article from Seven Days newspaper in Burlington, VT, about the acquisition.

Related Events

4 April, Wednesday, 5:30 P.M.
Arthur M. Loew Auditorium
"Marcel Duchamp: The Box in a Valise"
Michael Taylor, Director
In celebration of the museum's recent acquisition of Marcel Duchamp's Box in a Valise, one of the most influential works of art of the twentieth century, the Hood's director will explore the complex ideas behind this portable museum, in which miniature reproductions of the artist's most significant works are cleverly arranged inside a red valise. A reception will follow in Kim Gallery.


18 April, Wednesday, 6:30–8:30 P.M.
Second-floor galleries
Art in a Box: Marcel Duchamp and the Expanding Grid

In this discussion-based workshop, we’ll explore two exhibitions of contemporary art. One focuses on Marcel Duchamp’s Boîte-en-valise, a “portable museum” that allowed him to carry around his life’s work in a traveling box. The other explores the legacy of cubism and other forms of grid-based abstraction. In the studio, we’ll experiment with grids and boxes as a compositional structure for art making. No previous art experience necessary. Space is limited. Please call (603) 646-1469 by April 16 to register.


28 April, Saturday, 2:00 P.M.
Second-floor galleries
Marcel Duchamp: The Box in a Valise

Michael Taylor, Director

Last Updated: 7/23/12