Pocket Chess Set

Late Readymade
Original version, 1943 (with wallet)
Original Version:

1943, New York
leather pocket chessboard, celluloid, pins
rectified readymade
without wallet: 16 x 10.5 cm
with wallet open: 16 x 22 cm

Not unlike many of Duchamp's late Readymades, Pocket Chess Set was made in mass quantity right from the start. 150 sets of chessmen were made; 25 were assembled in pocket chessboards, not all including pins, and some were signed. This method of production suggests that Duchamp sought to have his own assembly line to manufacture goods just like a commercial factory.

Original version, 1943 (without wallet)

The chessmen were reproduced on celluloid after Duchamp's own designs. This presence of real creative art making is not very typical. Nonetheless, the squares of the chessboards are hand-painted.

The technology to make the chessboard magnetized (like many travel games made today) was unavailable in 1943; Duchamp used pins to hold the pieces in place. Duchamp explained the addition of such pins: "I have simply added to the normal pocket chessboard a pin (the head) to each square. It is inserted in the hole made in the celluloid of the chessman to hold it and prevent it from falling" (Schwarz 776).

It is important to note that, unlike most other Readymades, Pocket Chess Set is not displaced from its original context. In fact, it is entirely functional. If the viewer were allowed to use it, all the pieces are there. Ironically, however, this Readymade is literally a game. How far this allusion is meant to extend, no one really knows; the viewer may only imagine how far the associations and insinuations of playing this game may go.
Replica, 1961-4

1)1961-64, New York, Cadaques
Chessmen glued to metal bases, so as to adhere to a magnetic chessboard.

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