Marcel Broodthaers: A Retrospective

*Musée d’Art Moderne, Département des Aigles, Section Publicité*

Marcel Broodthaers. Musée d’Art Moderne, Département des Aigles, Section Publicité. 1972 66001

Exhibition view of Marcel Broodthaers’s Musée d’Art Moderne, Département des Aigles, Section Publicité, Neue Galerie, Documenta 5, Kassel, Germany, June 30–October 8, 1972. Photo: Maria Gilissen. Image courtesy Maria Gilissen Archives of Marcel Broodthaers. © 2016 Maria Gilissen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SABAM, Brussels

Francesca: The Publicity Section was one of the last incarnations of Broodthaers’s Museum of Modern Art. You're seeing it just as Broodthaers designed it, in 1972.

The Publicity Section actually advertises another exhibition by Broodthaers, the “Section of Figures,” documenting the objects in that exhibition. Take a look at the photographs—you’ll see hundreds of objects adorned with the emblem of an eagle. He included works of art borrowed from museums, as well as everyday items: coins, jewelry, and clothing.

Broodthaers does a couple of things with this exhibition. He develops an arbitrary and surprising category for organizing art—I certainly can’t think of any other art museum that organizes its collections by animal species. And by showing the objects together, he raises questions about traditional hierarchy—the status of a sculpture, for example, versus a beer bottle. Taking that a step further, a sign next to each object states, “This is not a work of art.” Broodthaers denies one of the perceived functions of the museum, which is to tell us what is and isn’t art.

At this point, you must be asking: why eagles? Broodthaers listed the eagle’s attributes as “Greatness, authority, power. Divine spirit. Spirit of conquest. Imperialism.” I think he might say that some of these qualities apply to museums as well.

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