Marcel Broodthaers: A Retrospective

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Marcel Broodthaers. Museum of Modern Art. The Eagles. 19th-Century Section (Musée d'Art Moderne. Les Aigles. Section XIXe siècle). 1969 65801

Two painted vacuum-formed plastic plates, Each: 76 3/16 x 35 1/4 x 3/16" (193.5 x 89.5 x 0.5 cm). Partial gift of the Daled Collection and partial purchase through the generosity of Maja Oeri and Hans Bodenmann, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, Agnes Gund, Marlene Hess and James D. Zirin, Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis, and Jerry I. Speyer and Katherine G. Farley. © 2024 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SABAM, Brussels

Francesca: Broodthaers was fascinated by assumed identities, and throughout his life, he took on roles that allowed him to investigate the world from different perspectives. In 1968, he stated that he was no longer an artist, but instead, the director of his own museum, which he called the “Museum of Modern Art. Department of Eagles.” Around you are fragments of those exhibitions, and the display nearby contains photographs and ephemera documenting some of those original installations.

The project was complicated, but here it goes: Broodthaers worked on his museum project for over four years, presenting 12 different “sections”—or departments—in seven European cities. Some were dedicated to chronological periods, such as the 17th century or the 19th century. Others were devoted to supporting activities—like documentation, finance, and publicity—essential, but often overlooked, aspects of every museum.

Broodthaers investigated the museum as an institution, its activity and its structure. He raised questions: What is the role of the museum? How do museums categorize art? How does this influence our perception and our understanding of art? What is the visitor supposed to take away? Do museums address our social needs? Or do they exist solely to promote nationalism and establish authority?