Marcel Broodthaers: A Retrospective

Marcel Broodthaers. Un coup de dés jamais n'abolira le hasard (A throw of the dice will never abolish chance). 1969 65701

Artist's book. Offset lithograph, thirty-two pages, page (each): 12 13/16 x 9 3/4" (32.5 x 24.7 cm); overall (closed): 12 13/16 x 9 13/16 x 1/8" (32.5 x 25 x 0.3 cm). Acquired through the generosity of Howard B. Johnson in honor of Riva Castleman. © 2022 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SABAM, Brussels

Francesca: Broodthaers admired the Surrealist painter René Magritte, one of Belgium’s most celebrated modern artists. In the mid-1940s, Magritte gave the young Broodthaers a book that made a lasting impression. A throw of the dice will never abolish chance by the French writer Stéphane Mallarmé. In 1969, Broodthaers focused an exhibition on the book. We’ve largely recreated it here, in this gallery.

Mallarmé’s poet, liberated language from the conventions of typography, adding a visual aspect to his poetry by spreading his words across the page and using different fonts and typographic treatments. Broodthaers took this idea a step further, reproducing Mallarmé’s poem in the different ways that you see here. His goal was to widen the parameters of poetry, free it from the page altogether, and transform it into a visual experience.

Mallarmé’s enigmatic poem--his final work-- explores the theme of poetic failure through the metaphor of a ship battered by a stormy sea. You’ve been hearing a recording of Broodthaers reading it in French, here in the gallery. This was included in his original exhibition. Here is an excerpt in English.

Mallarme, Christophe:
A Throw of the Dice Never
Even when truly cast in the eternal circumstance of a shipwreck’s depth, Can be only the Abyss raging, whitened, stalled beneath the desperately sloping incline of its own wing, through an advance falling back from ill to take flight, and veiling the gushers, restraining the surges, gathered far within the shadow buried deep by that alternative sail, almost matching its yawning depth to the wingspan, like a hull of a vessel rocked from side to side.

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