Lot 10
  • 10

Marcel Duchamp

600,000 - 800,000 EUR
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  • Marcel Duchamp
  • Traveler's Folding Item
  • signed Marcel Duchamp, bears the edition number 5/8 and dated 1964 (in the interior)
  • Readymade: Underwood typewriter plastic cover
  • 23 x 45 x 18 cm; 9 x 17 3/4 x 7 in.


Galleria Schwarz, Milan
Private collection, Milan
Acquired from the above by the present owner circa 1975


Mart, Rovereto, Ricerche d'avanguardia nel '900 : dal futurismo a oggi attraverso le collezioni del Mart, 2007-08, illustrated in the catalogue p. 150-51
Venice, Fondazione Prada, The small utopia: ars muliplicata, 2012, another example no. 148 illustrated in the catalogue p. 104
Brescia, Museo di Santa Giulia, DADA 1916, La nascita delll’antiarte, 2017


Exhibition of Modern Art (exhibition catalogue), New York, Bourgeois Galleries, 1916, no. 50, the original object
Robert Lebel, Sur Marcel Duchamp, Paris, 1959, no. 133, original Readymade catalogued
Omaggio a Marcel Duchamp (exhibition catalogue), Milan, Galleria Schwarz, 1964, no. 11, another example from the edition
Walter Hopps, Ulf Linde & Arturo Schwarz, Marcel Duchamp: Ready-mades etc. (1913-1964), Milan, 1964, no. 11, another example from the edition illustrated p. 17
The Almost Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp (exhibition catalogue), London, The Tate Gallery, 1966, no. 127, another example from the edition
Arturo Schwarz, The Complete works of Marcel Duchamp, New York, 1969, no. 240, another example from the edition illustrated p. 240
Marcel Duchamp: drawings, etchings for the large glass, readymades, (exhibition catalogue), Jerusalem, The Israel Museum 1972, another example from the edition
Marcel Duchamp: 66 creative years (exhibition catalogue), Milan, Galleria Schwarz, 1972-73, no. 70, another example from the edition
Marcel Duchamp (exhibition catalogue), Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art; New York, The Museum of Modern Art & Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago,1973-74, no. 117, another example from the edition
L'Œuvre de Marcel Duchamp (exhibition catalogue), Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre national d'art et de culture Georges Pompidou, 1977, no. 108, another example from the edition
Ulf Linde, Marcel Duchamp, Stockholm, 1986, installation view illustrated p. 55, another example
Marcel Duchamp (exhibition catalogue), Antwerp, Galerie Ronny van de Velde 1991, another example from the edition
Edouard Jaguer & Jean-Jacques Lebel, After Duchamp, Paris, 1991, another example from the edition illustrated p. 157
Marcel Duchamp (exhibition catalogue), Venice, Palazzo Grassi, 1993, another example from the edition illustrated p. 58
Pontus Hultén, ed., Marcel Duchamp: work and life, Cambridge, 1993, another example from the edition illustrated p. 58
Robert Lebel, Sur Marcel Duchamp, Paris, 1996, no. 13.3, the original Readymade catalogued
Dawn Anes, Neil Cox & David Hopkins, Marcel Duchamp, London, 1999, fig. 120, another example from the edition illustrated p. 158
Francis M. Naumann, Marcel Duchamp, The Art of Making Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, New York, 1999, other examples from the edition illustrated p. 226; fig. 8.29 and p. 246, fig. 8.70
Arturo Schwarz, The Complete works of Marcel Duchamp, New York, 2000, no. 342b, another example from the edition illustrated p. 645
Duchamp, Man Ray, Picabia (exhibition catalogue), Tate Modern, London & Barcelona, Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, 2008, no. 158, another example from the edition illustrated p. 127
Dada (exhibition catalogue), Paris, Centre national d'art et de culture Georges Pompidou; Washington D.C., National Gallery of Art & New York, Museum of Modern Art, 2005-06, no. 154, another example from the edition p. 709


Typewriter vinyl cover. Exterior: The gold lettering is very slightly faded, revealing some minor scuffing and underlying colour of the black vinyl, all inherent to the medium and similar to other examples of the edition. There is some dust and there is a small scuff to the leather surface above the "un". The vinyl has some very minor creasing also inherent to the folding nature of the object. Interior: Please note the original plaque with the artist's name, title and number of the edition (5/8) has been lost. There are the remnants of adhesive where a plaque was formerly placed. The number 5/8 inside the cover is in another hand. This work is in very good condition.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Originally conceived by Marcel Duchamp as a Readymade in 1916, the Underwood typewriter cover titled Traveler’s Folding Item, no longer exists.  The present work is a rare replica from an edition of 8 examples created under the supervision of Marcel Duchamp by the Galleria Schwarz in 1964 and based upon the model of an Underwood typewriter cover that Duchamp replicated and miniaturized in 1940 for inclusion in his famous The Box in a Valise.  Four examples of the rare 1964 examples of this work from the edition are in museum collections, including the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, the Art Museum of Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, and the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida. Two additional sets of the replica edition were made and reserved for the artist, and two others were produced for museum exhibition purposes, one of which was donated by Schwarz to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem on occasion of the Duchamp retrospective in 1972, and another was given to the Museo Nazionale d’Arte Moderna in Rome in 1997. Another replica, in the collection of the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, was made by Ulf Linde for the Duchamp Retrospective held there in 1963.

The first definition of the "Readymade" was published in 1938 in André Breton and Paul Éluard's Dictionnaire abrégé du Surréalisme which famously states that it is "…an ordinary object elevated to the dignity of a work of art by the mere choice of an artist."  Thus, by simply choosing a manufactured object and reappropriating it, the “found” object became art.

The Traveler’s Folding Item was Duchamp’s fourth readymade out of the thirteen he would create between 1913 and 1923.  First came the Bicycle Wheel, the Bottle Rack, and after his move to New York in 1915, the snow shovel inscribed In Advance of the Broken Arm, and the Traveler’s Folding Item in 1916.  It was in New York that Duchamp coined the term “Readymade” based on an expression that was then current in industrial manufacturing to describe prêt-à-porter or ready-to-wear clothing.  Before being lost, Traveler’s Folding Item was exhibited only once in 1917 and in an uncertain circumstance, possibly suspended on a coat rack, at the Bourgeois Gallery in New York City.

The Traveler’s Folding Item’s original function as an Underwood typewriter cover is entirely reappropriated. Interpretations of this work have been manifold and the literature is vast.  What is certain is that, typical of Duchamp, the various layers of meaning are not fixed. Is the typewriter cover a sort of veil, some have said a skirt, with the associated erotic implications that invites the viewer to discover what lies hidden beneath it?  The way the Traveler’s Folding Item was exhibited under Duchamp’s supervision in the legendary 1963 retrospective at the Pasadena Art Museum seems to suggest this among other possibilities.  However, to seek a specific interpretation for a Readymade such as Traveler’s Folding Item is to misunderstand Duchamp’s intentions.  He sought to “Entirely get out of art” (in, Francis Roberts, 'I propose to strain the laws of physics',  Art News No 8, December 1968, p. 62), and his choice of objects was intended to be based on complete visual indifference and on the total absence of good or bad taste.  In 1953, When Duchamp was asked about the genesis of the Traveler’s Folding Item he stated: "I thought it would be a good idea to introduce softness in the Readymade - in other words not altogether hardness, porcelain or iron, or things like that... So that's why the typewriter cover came into existence" (Arturo Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, New York, 1997, p. 646).  The Traveler’s Folding Item can arguably be considered as the first ‘soft sculpture’ in the history of art. Moreover, like the other Readymades, the Underwood typewriter cover seems to emphasize the randomness of its selection, and thereby establishes itself as a basis for later surrealist investigations of chance juxtapositions, such as they were originally suggested by Isidore Ducasse (Comte de Lautreamont) in his Chants de Maldoror, 1869, with his famous description of “… the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on a dissecting table.”

The mechanism of the Readymades, their various levels of meaning, makes it impossible to provide the viewer with a definitive interpretation.  It is precisely these characteristics which make them so important in the history of art and fundamental in the development of Modern and Contemporary art to this day.  With the Readymade, Duchamp singlehandedly disrupted centuries old notions of the artist’s role as the creator of original handmade objects while also defying traditional Beaux-Arts notions that art must be beautiful.  Set far beyond any sense of aesthetic judgment, directly relying on the viewer’s own interpretation, the Readymade establishes Duchamp as one of the founders of conceptual art. 

We wish to thank Francis Naumann for his advice and help with this catalogue note.