Marcel Broodthaers: A Retrospective

Untitled (Triptych)

Marcel Broodthaers. Untitled (Triptych). 1965–1966 65401

Marcel Broodthaers (Belgian, 1924–1976). Untitled (Triptych). 1965–66. Eggshells on three painted canvases, each canvas: 39 3/8 × 27 9/16 × 3 5/16″ (100 × 70 × 10 cm). Black and yellow panels: M.-C. & Ch. Firmenich-Guillissen/Pierre Huber, Art & Public, Geneva; red panel: Collection Sylvio Perlstein, Antwerp. Image courtesy Maria Gilissen Archives of Marcel Broodthaers. © 2016 Estate of Marcel Broodthaers/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SABAM, Brussels

Francesca: Like the mussel shell, Broodthaers was drawn to the eggshell for its poetic potential. He associated it with the ideas of origins and the cycle of life:

Broodthaers, Chrstophe Cherix: A more beautiful form than the eggshell? No. If so, the mussel shell. The hull. The hull. Two complete forms, balanced, teeming with germs. Two egalitarian forms. But we leave the mussels behind for another thread. . . .

Everything is eggs. The world is egg. The world was born of the great yolk, the sun. Our mother, the moon, is scaly. And the belly of a wave of water is white. The egg’s crushed scales, the moon. Egg dust, the stars. Everything, dead eggs. And, lost, the poets. Despite the guards, this world, sun, this moon, stars of entire trains. Emptiness. Of empty eggs.

Francesca: Broodthaers collected the empty eggshells and mussel shells from a local restaurant. By making art out of discarded materials, he again raised questions: How is it that an object is trash in one setting and art in another? How does an object acquire value?

Eggs were a main ingredient in the production of tempera paint, which has a long history in Northern European art. By placing eggshells on panels painted the colors of the Belgian flag, Broodthaers playfully staked his lineage within Belgian art history.

From Marcel Broodthaers, “Évolution ou L’OEuf Film,” Phantômas, nos. 51–61 (December 1965): 111–12, reprinted in the catalogue, p. 96

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