Kunsthaus Zürich presents 'Marcel Broodthaers - Museum'

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Kunsthaus Zürich presents 'Marcel Broodthaers - Museum'
Installation view.

ZURICH.- The Kunsthaus Zürich is showing a cabinet exhibition devoted to the graphic editions of Marcel Broodthaers. It focuses on the artist’s critical questioning of the museum as institution.

Marcel Broodthaers (1924–1976) worked intensively on the subject of the museum. The Belgian artist’s critical perspective on that institution has lost none of its relevance today. Four aspects play a central role and are being highlighted in the exhibition: the museum itself, artists, the art market, and visitors.


Assembled by guest curator Simone Gehr from works held at the Kunsthaus, the cabinet exhibition asks how exactly Broodthaers envisaged the ideal museum. What did he criticise about the museums of his time? And how, on the basis of his works, can we reflect on the museum landscape of today? His concerns are ones that are shared by the public: why are some works ‘worth’ more than others, and what role does the museum play in those monetary valuations? Is a work only ‘genuine’ if it is signed? And where do descriptions of works lead us astray?


At the heart of the exhibition are Broodthaers’s graphic editions: a group of 25 works from throughout his artistic career, all of which are held in the Collection of Prints and Drawings at the Kunsthaus. In the context of Broodthaers, the term ‘graphic editions’ is used quite broadly, covering not only prints but also film, photography and installations. The editions are complemented by a few related groups of works on loan, such as open letters and films by the artist.


Thanks to contact with the artist’s family and research into little-known archive materials, the small publication accompanying the exhibition in the ‘collection volumes’ series contains new and exclusive information which is now being made public for the first time. The 96-page publication from Scheidegger & Spiess costs CHF 24 and is available in German language from the Kunsthaus shop and bookstores.


Born in Brussels, Belgium, Marcel Broodthaers started out as a poet before becoming a self-taught visual artist at the age of 40. When he died on his 52nd birthday in 1976, he left behind an extraordinarily diverse body of work despite an artistic career spanning just 12 years. The museum was probably Broodthaers’s main preoccupation, his interest piqued by the events of May 1968 and the associated protests in Brussels. He subsequently set up his own fictional museum, which was never intended to exist as a real institution, but was designed to prompt questions about the contemporary cultural sector. His fictional ‘Musée d’Art Moderne’ appeared in a wide range of forms between 1968 and 1972. A number of his graphic editions were donated to the Kunsthaus in 1982 and were exhibited at the time. The most recent solo exhibition devoted to Broodthaers in Switzerland was at MASI in Lugano, which concentrated mainly on his ‘plaques’ (large-format plastic signs).

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