Marcel Brood­thaers

(b. 1924, Brussels – d. 1976, Cologne)

Marcel Broodthaers worked as a writer, poet, filmmaker, photographer, journalist and visual artist. He was actively involved in the intellectual life of Brussels. By 1960 he had published two books of poetry, produced a film, and was writing and lecturing on art. His career as a visual artist began in 1964 when he embedded, in plaster, fifty copies of his last volume of poems, Pense-Bête. In his first one-person exhibition the same year, Broodthaers exhibited everyday objects, words, lettering, child-like drawings etc., often with verbal-visual puns; made books, catalogues, prints on everything from canvases attached to the wall to reliefs in plastic. He used diverse media to determine a relation between an object and its image, the symbol and the meaning of the object. He isolated and stripped away the taxonomy of objects from everyday life and displayed them in new correlations probing the logic on which our perception is based. From 1961 onwards, Broodthaers had started putting together slide projections. He described them as a “système de lecture” or a “Photo-film.”

Broodthaers analyzed the context in which things are given meaning, the role of the institution, display and text in an art work’s reception. In 1968 he established a “Museum of Modern Art” of postcards, paintings and packing cases in his house in Brussels, followed by various installation-structures. The museum had its own stationery, invitations were sent out and the “director” held an opening speech. Crates were propped up against the wall but the art works themselves were not to be seen.