Marcel Broodthaers: A Retrospective

*La Salle blanche (The white room)*

Marcel Broodthaers. La Salle blanche (The white room). 1975

Marcel Broodthaers (Belgian, 1924–1976). La Salle blanche (The white room). 1975. Wood, photographs, light bulb, paint, and cord, 12′ 9 9/16″ × 11′ 5/16″ × 21′ 7 1/16″ (390 × 336 × 658 cm). Centre Pompidou, Paris/Musée national d’art moderne, Centre de création industrielle. © CNAC/MNAM/Dist. RMN-Grand Palais/Art Resource, NY. © 2016 Estate of Marcel Broodthaers/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SABAM, Brussels

Francesca: Broodthaers made this room for an exhibition held in Paris in 1975.

Broodthaers, Christophe Cherix: In the beginning it was to be a reconstruction of the first museum that I had made in Brussels. In the course of making it, I stopped all of that and I used part of the material and changed the context. Instead of the Museum, it became a perfectly petit-bourgeois ground floor where words float.

Francesca: Broodthaers hired a group of fabricators to rebuild the studio where he had inaugurated his museum in 1968. He painted the space white and filled it with words related to art—canvas, oil, image, subject, and copy. It’s a culmination of his desire to lift poetry from the page and let it permeate our world. He seems to be saying that art is not an object; it’s the ideas that surround us every day.

In the last years of his life, Broodthaers mounted half a dozen retrospectives of his own work. Well, he called them retrospectives but, as you might expect, he subverted the concept. A retrospective usually presents an artist’s work in chronological order, illustrating their evolution, and suggesting progress. This was just the kind of logic that Broodthaers critiqued. Instead, he presented his previous work in immersive exhibitions that suggested new connections. They demonstrate how objects can take on different meanings and values depending on context and circumstance.

Stéphane Rona and Broodthaers, “C’est l’Angélus qui sonne,” in +-0, No. 12, Genval-Brussels, February 1976, p. 19.

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