Moma
New York
 
Marcel Broodthaers
 
Text
Chiara Parisi<br>Cultural programs director, Monnaie de Paris<br><br>
 
The Museum of Modern Art in New York will be the first venue to welcome the traveling retrospective dedicated to Marcel Broodthaers (belgian, 1924–1976). The Pinault Collection is contributing three works: <br><i>Le Salon Noir</i> (1966), <i>Planche à Charbon</i> (1966), and <i>Pelle</i> (1970).
 
<a href="../../../revues/numero_6/03-hors-les-murs/Le_Salon_Noir_Marcel_Broodthaers.pdf" target="_blank" class="scrolltext-link jquerylink"><i>Le Salon Noir</i>, 1966</a> <br><br><br> <span class="alinea"></span>Marcel Broodthaers was a wanderer. A man of action who enjoyed walking alongside the currents and trends of his times—sometimes treading lightly, on the tip of his toes; sometimes more decisively, almost trampling them. But always he would leave behind a trace of his passage. Broodthaers is elusive, possibly one of the most impenetrable of all the great artists of the twentieth century, and probably the one who came closest to short-circuiting Duchamp’s conceptual logic. Broodthaers was a visual artist, but also—and most importantly—a poet, able to embrace all expressive forms, including theater and cinema. An aura of fiction pervades a number of his works. In <i>Le Salon Noir</i> (1996), for instance, he created a complete theatrical set, penetrated by a sense of the funereal and the macabre: a surrealist and prophetic memorial dedicated to Broodthaers’s friend, the poet Marcel Lecomte, who died a few months after the work was completed. It then became a most fitting epitaph for Lecomte, as it contains the image of the deceased over and over again: his profile appear on rows of jars lining the inside of a coffin. Dark humor, in which Broodthaers maintains a perfect equilibrium between homage and parody. He hits some of the same notes in<i> Planche à Charbon</i> (1966): this work is constituted of a rectangular plank of wood covered in a natural material, charcoal; a small parcel that looks like Broodthaers took it straight off someone’s front lawn, but without grass. In this case as well, the ironic, satirical element suggests a possible interpretation. A patina of humor develops over the work: <i>Planche à Charbon</i> seems to tend, on one side, towards minimalism, and on the other, towards Arte Povera, still in its very early days at the time of the work’s creation.<br><br> <span class="alinea"></span>Charcoal that you could shovel with another work by Broodthaers, this one from 1970, and aptly entitled <i>Pelle</i> (shovel), a work in which the artist adopts an unparalleled strategy of appropriation, borrowing from Duchamp and Magritte. A decorative readymade, <i>Pelle </i>plays on the relationship between signifier and signified in a way that is characteristic of how the artist—the poet, rather, let’s not forget—treats images as though they were words. <i>Le Salon Noir</i>, <i>Planche à Charbon</i>, <i>Pelle</i>: these three works form a global, self-sufficient system, together they bear witness to Broodthaers’ anti-mannerism, his way of being always recognizable yet always formally different, disconcerting. With his effective institutional critique, Broodthaers initiated a crisis in the art world; but perhaps, more fundamentally, did he initiate a crisis in our relationship to the work of art?<br><br>
 
Marcel BROODTHAERS<br /><i>Le Salon Noir</i> (détail), 1966 — Mixed media
 
Marcel BROODTHAERS<br /><i>Planche à charbon</i>, 1966 — Painted wood and coal — 250 × 80 × 25 cm — Exhibition view: Palais des Beaux-arts, Bruxelles, 1974
 
Marcel BROODTHAERS<br /><i>Pelle</i>, 1970 — Painted shovel, paper — 113 × 21 × 3,5 cm
 
Audio: Marcel Broodthaers,<br> <i>Interview with Cats </i><br> Broadcasted at Musée d'Art Moderne, Département des Aigles, 12 Burgplatz, Düsseldorf, 1970
 

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