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CLOSE-UP: A RROSE IN BERLIN

Marcel Duchamp, Belle Haleine, Eau de Voilette (Beautiful Breath, Veil Water), 1921, perfume bottle with label in oval box, 6 1/2 x 4 1/2 x approx. 1 1/2".

FOR SEVENTY-TWO HOURS at the end of January, the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin displayed Belle Haleine, said to be the only original “assisted readymade” by Duchamp that survives. To produce this piece, the artist appropriated a greenish flacon of Rigaud perfume and substituted an elegant label, with a Man Ray photo of the demure Rrose Sélavy (Duchamp’s infamous alter ego) above the complete title, Belle Haleine, Eau de Voilette, the brand name RS (with the R reversed), and a double place of origin, New York and Paris. The Rigaud box, signed by Rrose and dated 1921 on the back, framed the bottle here. This presentation of the work, the first public one in Germany, was theatrical in the extreme: Like crown jewels, the objects were spotlighted on a copper-colored plinth, set within a great glass case, and placed in the center of the vast Mies pavilion.

Although celebrated as the

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