28 January 1924
|Died||28 January 1976
|Known for||"Sculpture, "Poetry, "Artist's book, "Installation,|
|Notable work||"Un Coup de Dés Jamais N'Abolira Le Hasard, 1969|
Broodthaers was born in "Brussels, Belgium, where he was associated with the Groupe Surréaliste-revolutionnaire from 1945 and dabbled in "journalism, "film, and "poetry. After spending 20 years in poverty as a struggling poet, at the end of 1963 he decided to become an artist and began to make objects. He performed the symbolic act of embedding fifty unsold copies of his book of poems Pense-Bête in plaster, creating his first art object. That same year, 1964, for his first exhibition, he wrote a famous preface for the exhibition catalogue;
"I, too, wondered whether I could not sell something and succeed in life. For some time I had been no good at anything. I am forty years old... Finally the idea of inventing something insincere crossed my mind and I set to work straightaway. At the end of three months I showed what I had produced to Philippe Edouard Toussaint, the owner of the Galerie St Laurent. 'But it is art' he said 'and I will willingly exhibit all of it.' 'Agreed' I replied. If I sell something, he takes 30%. It seems these are the usual conditions, some galleries take 75%.
What is it? In fact it is objects."
Broodthaers later worked principally with assemblies of "found objects and "collage, often containing written texts. He incorporated written language in his art and used whatever was at hand for his raw materials—most notably the shells of eggs and mussels, but also furniture, clothing, garden tools, household gadgets and reproductions of artworks. In his Visual Tower (1966), Broodthaers made a seven-story circular tower of wood. He filled each story with uniform glass jars, and in every jar he placed an identical image taken from an illustrated magazine, of the eye of a beautiful young woman. For Surface de moules (avec sac) (Surface of mussels (with bag)) (1966), he glued mussels in resin on a square panel; in 1974 the artist added a discreet metal hook to the centre of the work designed to support a shopping bag filled with mussel shells.
From 1968 to 1975 Broodthaers produced large-scale environmental pieces that reworked the very notion of the museum. His most noted work was an installation which began in his Brussels house which he called Musée d'Art Moderne, Départment des Aigles (1968), containing different representations of eagles in glass cases that were accompanied by signs that asserted "This is not a work of art", implying that museums obscure the ideological functioning of images by imposing illegitimate classifications of value. This installation was followed by a further eleven manifestations of the 'museum', including at the "Kunsthalle Düsseldorf for an exhibition in 1970 and at documenta 5 in Kassel in 1972. In 1970 Broodthaers conceived of the Financial Section, which encompassed an attempt to sell the museum "on account of bankruptcy." The sale was announced on the cover of the "Art Cologne fair catalogue in 1971, but no buyers were found. As part of the Financial Section, the artist also produced an unlimited edition of gold ingots stamped with the museum's emblem, an eagle, a symbol associated with power and victory. The ingots were sold to raise money for the museum, at a price calculated by doubling the market value of gold, the surcharge representing the bar's value as art. In 1974, Broodthaers launched three separate exhibitions in the same week, each consisting of a new type of installation artwork he referred to as “décors.” The venues of these exhibitions were Wide White Space in Antwerp, Catalogue-Catalogus at Palais de Beaux-Arts Brussels, and Eloge du sujet at Kunstmuseum Basel. In 1975 Broodthaers presented the exhibition "L’Angelus de Daumier" at the Centre National d’Art Contemporain in Paris, at which each room had the name of a colour. In La Salle Blanche (The White Room) (1975), a life-size copy of a room and a half in Broodthaers' home in Brussels, the wooden walls of the empty, unfurnished rooms are covered with printed words in French—such as museum, gallery, oil, subject, composition, images, and privilege—all intended to examine "the influence of language on perceptions of the world and the ways museums affect the production and consumption of art." For such works he is associated with the late 20th century global spread of both "installation art as well as ""institutional critique," in which interrelationships between artworks, the artist, and the museum are a focus. Indeed, Broodthaers' Musée d'Art Moderne, his "first fictional museum," allowed him to simultaneously posture as artist, director, curator and trustee in a self-reflexive examination of the order and prescriptions implicit in the production of museum exhibits.
From late 1969, Broodthaers lived mainly in Düsseldorf, Berlin, and finally London. He died of a "liver disease in "Cologne, "Germany on his 52nd birthday. He is buried at "Ixelles Cemetery in Brussels under a tombstone of his own design.
In 1980, the exhibition "Marcel Broodthaers" was mounted by the "Tate Gallery, London. Other important retrospectives of Broodthaers’ work have been held at the "Walker Art Center (1989), "Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1989); "Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh (1989); "Jeu de Paume, Paris (1991); and "Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels (2000). The most recent traveling survey was organized by the "Museum of Modern Art, New York and the "Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid in 2016. The show also traveled to the "Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf in 2017. An important solo exhibition of the film work, "Marcel Broodthaers: Cinéma", was shown at Fundacio Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona; Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea, Santiago de Compostela, and "Kunsthalle Düsseldorf (1997). The first Solo Show in Austria was presented 2003 at Kunsthalle Vienna. In 2015 the "Fridericianum presented a comprehensive retrospective featuring works from all of the artist's creative periods. "Marcel Broodthaers: A Retrospective" at the Museum of Modern Art, New York was the first Broodthaers retrospective organized in New York. This solo exhibition was at the Museum of Modern Art, New York February 14–May 15, 2016 and then traveled to Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía , Madrid, in October 2016, and to the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf in the Spring of 2017.
As a poet and political activist, Broodthaers had a life-long interest in the circulatory power of printed matter: posters, graphics, editions, and artist books. In addition to the monetary potential of galleries selling limited editions, artist's books published with nonprofit institutions like Kunstalle Düsseldorf, the Deutsche Academischer Austaudienst (DAAD), Berlin, the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, merged the artist's commercial ambitions with conceptual and philosophical ideas. For example, Broodthaers' catalogue for Der Adler von Oligizän bis heute, the seminal culmination of his Musee d'Art Moderne, department des Aigles, at Kunstalle Düsseldorf in 1972, was published in two volumes. The first volume featured a scholarly index of the items on display and was for sale at the opening of the exhibition, replete with a coupon that could be redeemed for a copy of volume two, which came out at the close of the exhibition and featured views of the installation.
Broodthaers returned to this motif for his artist's book Photographieren Verboten/No Photographs Allowed but aimed it at the convention of the exhibition catalogue, with version one published by the DAAD, Berlin, and version two by the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford. The Oxford book presents ostensibly the same content as the DAAD book but scrambles the internal logic of the book, changing the context of its standard component parts—title page, checklist, scholarly essay, curriculum vitae—and thus the implications of each. Content normally reserved for the rear of an exhibition catalogue (in this case the artist's cv) appears on the inside front cover as a decorative pattern, and scholarly content such as the catalogue essay appears on the outside back cover like an advertising blurb.