Michael Werner Gallery is pleased to present Marcel Broodthaers: Écriture, an exhibition of major works by one of the most influential artists of the post-war period. The exhibition brings particular consideration to the importance of writing within Broodthaers’ complex and diverse oeuvre.
Marcel Broodthaers was born in Brussels in 1924. He began writing poetry at a young age, published his first poems in 1945 and by 1947 was aligned with the Belgian surrealists. Broodthaers experimented also with film, photography and journalism during this time. Broodthaers continued to write, struggling in near obscurity, for almost two decades before turning to the visual arts in 1964. Pense-Bête, Broodthaers’ first artwork, was a deeply symbolic sculpture comprising numerous unsold volumes of the artist’s poems embedded in a mound of plaster. A dramatic gesture of conceptual complexity and material restraint, Pense-Bête contains the essential artistic concepts that would drive all of Broodthaers’ subsequent work as a visual artist. Writing, both as a physical gesture and as a conceptual enterprise, is an elemental feature of Broodthaers’ sensibility, marked as it is by sharp wit and wordplay and an affectionate irony towards the conventions and institutions of contemporary art.
Broodthaers continually invented new ways of giving form to language by working across mediums of poetry, sculpture, painting, printmaking and film. Marcel Broodthaers: Écriture brings together seminal works across a range of mediums to demonstrate how Broodthaers’ poetic sensibility remained essential throughout his life’s work. The exhibition includes works in film, collage, sculpture and drawing, as well as one of the only paintings by the artist. The late work, Dites Partout Que Je L'Ai Dit (Say Everywhere What I Have Said), rarely seen since its creation nearly forty years ago, forms the core of Écriture. Conceived and first exhibited by Broodthaers as a room for his 1974 exhibition Eloge de Sujet (Eulogy of the Subject) at Kunstmuseum Basel, Dites Partout is one of the most important of Broodthaers’ “décors” and is a prescient precursor to contemporary practices of installation and relational aesthetics.
Marcel Broodthaers created several groundbreaking exhibitions during his brief career, most notably Eulogy of the Subject at Kunstmuseum Basel and The Angelus of Daumier at Centre Pompidou, Paris. Musée d'Art Moderne, Département des Aigles, a major work that occupied Broodthaers from 1969 to 1972, was included in documenta 5 in Kassel. Broodthaers died in Cologne in 1976, leaving behind an ambitious body of work that would speak to subsequent generations of artists and which remains highly relevant today. London’s Tate Gallery presented the first posthumous retrospective of the artist in 1980. Important posthumous museum exhibitions include Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam (1981); Kunsthalle Bern (1982); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (1989); Galerie National du Jeu de Paume, Paris (1991); Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (1992); Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona (1997); Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels (2001); Kunsthalle Wien (2003); Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna (2012); Aspen Art Museum (2014); Monnaie de Paris (2015); and Fridericianum, Kassel (2015).