Marcel Broodthaers was a poet and bookseller until age forty, when he turned to Conceptual art by creating a sculptural work composed of fifty copies of one of his poetry books, cast in plaster. He later became known for paradoxical word-image juxtapositions, as well as large-scale installations simulating museum exhibitions and assemblages made in part with eggshells, mussel shells, and European household goods. He also created paintings, films, performances, and sound pieces. In general, Broodthaers's work focuses on the ways in which social, economic, and institutional constructs influence and affect art's meaning.
Broodthaers's printed work consists of twenty-six individual prints, several in diptych format, and some twenty artist's books, mostly created to function as part of his Conceptual projects rather than as explorations of printmaking techniques. The diptych Museum-Museum presents Broodthaers's views on an institution of culture, which, he believes, decontextualizes art. Here identical bars of gold bullion are each stamped with an eagle, a reference to the "Eagle Department" in his fictional museum. On the left, they are labeled with artists' names, such as Mantegna, Ingres, and Duchamp, and on the right, with names of commodities such as sugar, tobacco, and chocolate. The bars along the bottom row of each panel carry the following captions: "IMITATION," "KOPIE," "COPIE," "FALSCH," and "ORIGINAL." By integrating issues of art and commerce, Broodthaers raises questions concerning the reduction of art objects to basic exchange commodities. Created for one of his mock museum installations, this print implicates museums for their role as treasuries of artistic currency and for their collaboration in the process of commodification as they act as guarantors of aesthetic values.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Raimond Livasgani, in Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 184.