Marcel Broodthaers

Belgium 1924 - 1976

Installation, Sculpture, Conceptual Art

Marcel Broodthaers
Marcel Broodthaers
January 30, 2017
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One of the most talented individuals his nation has in its modern art history, Marcel Broodthaers was a Belgian artist whose pieces were created from an incredibly vast set of skills that allowed the author to use various mediums and techniques with ease. He produced paintings, prints, sculptures, poems and films on regular basis, oftentimes tackling hard political topics or critiquing art institutions he saw as useless establishments. Right from the very start of his career, Broodthaers approached visual art with a somewhat sarcastic and rebellious attitude[1], originally treating it as a kind of ironic, comical venture that was well primarily suited with his sense of humor. This feature never truly left Marcel’s artistic vocabulary as he remained a playful author for the entirety of his relatively short twelve-year career. In its conceptual core, Broodthaers’ practice is based on the ideas of re-appropriation and re-presentation of other artists’ practices. Full of parody, metonymy and redundancy, his work is playfully cerebral.

Marcel Broodthaers -Tapis de Sable, 1974 - Image via museoreinasofiaes
Marcel Broodthaers -Tapis de Sable, 1974 – Image via

A Struggling Poet’s Turning Point

Marcel Broodthaers was born in Brussels, Belgium, and it is here that he spent most of his life. He was associated with the Groupe Surréaliste-revolutionnaire from the year of 1945 onwards and dabbled in journalism, film and poetry on a consistent basis. However, none of these fields was able to satisfy him for too long as he enjoyed experimenting with new things regularly. Writing poems was one of the rare things he never stopped doing. Broodthaers spent almost twenty years of his life living in poverty as a struggling poet who took comfort in the fact he was doing something he loved. However, in the year of 1963, Marcel decided to become a visual artist and began to make objects. In order to somehow mark this decision, the artist performed the symbolic act of embedding fifty unsold copies of his book of poems in plaster[2]. This was his first piece of art. In 1964, Broodthaers wrote the following statement in the catalog of his first official exhibition: I, too, wondered whether I could not sell something and succeed in life. For some time I had been no good at anything. I am forty years old… Finally, the idea of inventing something insincere finally crossed my mind and I set to work straightaway. At the end of three months, I showed what I had produced to Philippe Edouard Toussaint, the owner of the Galerie St Laurent. ‘But it is art’ he said ‘and I will willingly exhibit all of it.’ ‘Agreed’ I replied.

Michael White work retrospective on view in York gallery stayed clear of privacy terms
Marcel Broodthaers – Knot of Riddles – Image via

Imitation and Improvement

In 1957, Broodthaers made his first film and would continue to direct over 50 short movies in documentary, narrative and experimental styles for the next few years. As for his more conventional visual artworks, the author worked principally with assemblies of found objects and collage that contained written texts. These narrative segments of his art were actually more important to Marcel than all the other materials combined. Broodthaers used ludicrous materials such as shells of eggs and mussels on a regular basis[3], combining these with broken furniture, garden tools, household gadgets and reproductions of other people’s artworks. Some of his most notable pieces from this period were the Visual Tower (1966) and Surface of mussels (1966). Most of his conceptual decisions were guided by the ideas of his idol with whom he shared a first name, the avant-garde legend Marcel Duchamp. For Broodthaers, Duchamp was the greatest artist to have ever lived and he held everything the American said about art close to heart.

The art of Marcel Broodthaers regularly incorporated humor and personal metaphor as source material in order to challenge conventional understandings of our societies

Poet Michael and his arts and white images do not fall under privacy terms
Marcel Broodthaers -The Belgian Lion – Image via

Experimenting With Large-scale Environments

Between the years of 1968 and 1975, Marcel Broodthaers produced many large-scale environmental pieces that reinterpreted the very notion of what a museum should be[4]. His most noted piece of this kind was an installation which initially began in his Brussels house which he called Musée d’Art Moderne, Départment des Aigles (1968). This masterpiece was followed by a further eleven manifestations of what their author believed genuine museums should look like. The entire collection of works was supposed to be symbolically sold in 1971 on account of bankruptcy, but there were no buyers interested in what Marcel was selling. However, Broodthaers continued to experiment with these large-scale environmental pieces, not allowing anything to discourage him[5]. In 1975, he presented the exhibition L’Angelus de Daumier at the Centre National d’Art Contemporain in Paris. It featured many different rooms where each was called by a single color. The author himself explained the idea behind the piece with the following statement: The influence of language on perceptions of the world and the ways museums affect the production and consumption of art. Marcel’s mature works aimed at critiquing the interrelationships between artworks, the artist and the museum, something that Broodthaers desperately wanted to fix.[6] In 1969, Marcel started to sporadically live in Düsseldorf, Berlin and London. He died from complications following a liver disease on his 52nd birthday. Broodthaers is buried at Ixelles Cemetery in Brussels under a tombstone of his own design.

Due to the nature of his works, it’s no wonder that Marcel Broodthaers’s art was accessible to a broader public then the case was with almost all of his contemporary colleagues

New retrospective exhibitions on view in Modern Gallery of arts in New York
Marcel Broodthaers – Untitled – Image via

The Worth of Marcel Broodthaers

Although his loose approach to art making and the fact he usually used other authors’ works in his own creations does affect his ultimate legacy, the influence of Marcel Broodthaers is still as strong today as the case was at the time he appeared on the scene[7]. By adopting and representing aspects of his contemporary movements such as Pop Art and Conceptual art, Broodthaers managed to remain relevant in his own time whilst he was also combining genres and concepts for his own artistic objectives, working on his sole legacy. Ultimately, due to the fact Marcel spent so much of his time outside of the art world and all its norms, this Belgian artist was able to provide the viewers and art historians with a unique perspective of how pieces of art are colonized by either an elite, by the state or by commercial organizations. His perspective was uncompromised, pure and, therefore, precious to all of us who investigate it from a today’s standpoint.


  1. Compton, M., Crimp, D., Jenkins, B., Mosebach, M., Marcel Broodthaers, Walker Art Center, 1989
  2. Buchloh, B. H. D., Broodthaers: Writings, Interviews Photographs, MIT Press edition, 1988
  3. Broodthaers, M., Marcel Broodthaers: The Conquest of Space: Atlas for the Use of Artists and the Military, The Museum of Modern Art; Box Slp Fa edition, 2016
  4. Haidu, R., The Absence of Works: Marcel Broodthaers, 1964-1976, The MIT Press; Reprint edition, 2013
  5. Cherix, C., Borja-Villel, M., Broodthaers, M., Buchloh, B., Chaffee, C., Chévrier, J. F., Conaty, K., de Duve, T., Marcel Broodthaers, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2016
  6. Pelzer, B., Moure, G., M., Broodthaers, Marcel Broodthaers: Collected Writings, Ediciones Poligrafa, 2013
  7. Broodthaers, M., Evers, E., Jansen, E., Marcel Broodthaers Today: Of Real Presence, Walther König, Köln; Bilingual edition, 2011

Featured image: Marcel Broodthaers – Untitled – Image via
All images courtesy of the artist.

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2017BXL UniverselCENTRALE for contemporary art, Brussels Group
2017BXL UniverselCENTRALE for contemporary art, Brussels Group
2017[un]erwartetDie Kunst des Zufalls, Stuttgart Group
2017Macba Collection 31Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA), Barcelona Group
2016Marcel Broodthaers: Una retrospectivaMuseo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid Solo
2016Marcel Broodthaers: Musée à vendreWeserburg | Museum für moderne Kunst, Bremen Solo
2016Marcel Broodthaers: Invitation to a VoyageAlden Projects, New York City, NY Solo
2016Marcel BroodthaersPaul Kasmin Gallery, New York City, NY Solo
2016Marcel BroodthaersMuseum of Modern Art, New York City, NY Solo
2016Marcel BroodthaersMichael Werner Gallery, New York City, NY Solo
2016EtherGalerie Chantal Crousel, Paris Group
2016Modernity à la belgeRoyal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels Group
2016Les Marcel(s)Passatge Studio, Barcelona Group
2016DecorBoghossian Foundation, Brussels Group
2016Sammlung Opitz-HoffmannStadtmuseum & Kunstsammlung Jena, Jena Group
2016Rencontre Arles 2016Les Rencontres d'Arles, Arles Group
2016Pure FrictionGalerie Marian GoodmanGroup
2016The Science of Imaginary SolutionsBREESE LITTLE, London Group
201626 Stages of ErectionP74 Gallery, Ljubljana Group
2016Group ShowGalerie Martine Aboucaya, Paris Group
2016The importance of BeingMuseo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca, Oaxaca Group
2016Order & Reorder: Curate Your Own ExhibitionNational Museum of Modern Art Kyoto (MOMAK), Kyoto Group
2016Pandora's Box : Jan Dibbets on Another PhotographyMusée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de ParisGroup
2016A Lesson in Sculpture with John LathamHenry Moore Institute, Leeds Group
2016Ich kenne kein Weekend-Aus René Blocks Archiv und SammlungLentos Kunstmuseum Linz, Linz Group
2016UngenauCultuurcentrum de Werft, Geel Group
2016Prove di fotografia #1Spazio Labo, Bologna Group
2015Marcel BroodthaersKunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel Solo
2015Marcel BroodthaersHerbert Foundation, Ghent Solo
2015Marcel Broodthaers: Poet And ArtistStedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven Solo
2015They Printed It!Kunsthalle Zürich, Zurich Group
2015Dinge bewegenMuseum der Moderne, Salzburg Group
2015A line is a line is a lineCultuurcentrum Strombeek, Grimbergen Group
2015Love Affair With Graphics. From Albers To VostellNational Museum in Cracow, Krakow Group
2015Von Bildern. Strategien der AneignungMuseum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel Group
2015I Belgi. Barbari E PoetiMACRO Museo d´Arte Contemporanea Roma, Rome Group
2015In An Absolut World True Taste Comes NaturallyCamberwell Space, London Group
2015Printed MattersGesso Artspace, Vienna Group
2015Tout ne tient qu'à un filGalerie de France, Paris Group
2015The importance of beingMuseo Nacional de Bellas Artes de La Habana, Havana Group
2015In Peril on the Sea: Sailing Ships, Stormy SeasChelsea space, London Group
2015Octavi Comeron. Contracte comúSales d’exposicions de Can Palauet, Mataró Group
2015ObsessionMaison Particulière, Brussels Group
2014Décor: A ConquestAspen Art Museum, Aspen, CO Solo
2014Marcel Broodthaers: Extra MurosSMAK Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Ghent Solo
2014Marcel Broodthaers: Words, things and conceptsAkbank Art Center, Istanbul Solo
2014We Fragment, Collect and NarrateLeopold Hoesch Museum, Düren Group
2014The Novel That Writes ItselfGreene Naftali, New York City, NY Group
2014De Vierkantigste RechthoekKunsthal KAdE, Amersfoort Group
2014The Library VaccineArtists Space, New York City, NY Group
2014playing by heartKolumba, Cologne Group
2014A Non Curated Show What's Lefts of Improvisation?Delire Gallery, Brussels Group
2014Slow LearnerTimothy Taylor Gallery, London Group
2014Une Lettre Ar­rive Tou­joursLa Panacée, Montpellier Group
2014Re: CollectPalais Stutterheim, Erlangen Group
2014L’Art Chemin Faisant... Le Rire, Un Parcours JauneAtelier d'Estienne, Pont-Scorff Group
2014Der Leone Have Sept CabeçasCentre rhénan d'art contemporain, Altkirch Group
2014my land has palm treesSIZ Gallery, Rijeka Group
2014The Disappearance of the firefliesCollection Lambert, Avignon Group
2014Group ShowDelire Gallery, Brussels Group
2014Draw Me A SheepGalerie Gabrielle Maubrie, Paris Group
2014Paper I CartróGalería Kewenig, Palma de Mallorca Group
2014Propaganda für die WirklichkeitMuseum Morsbroich, Leverkusen Group
2014RE: PaintedSMAK Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Ghent Group
2014CodexCCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco, CA Group
2013Marcel Broodthaers: Décor: A Conquest And Bricks: 1966-1975Michael Werner Gallery, London Solo
2013BorderlessEMERGENT galerie & vereniging, Furnes Group
2013AnimismIlmin Museum of Art, Seoul Group
2013Artists using PhotographyGesso Artspace, Vienna Group
2013Remuer ciel et terreles Abattoirs de Toulouse, Toulouse Group
2013The Imaginary of the Ocean DeepTate St. Ives, St. Ives, CornwallGroup
2013In Form Express & AdmirableCamberwell Space, London Group
2013We Fragment, Collect and NarrateCultuurcentrum Mechelen, Mechelen Group
2013İstanbul Eindhoven Saltvanabbe Modern TimesSALT Galata, Istanbul Group
2013Orpheus TwiceThe David Roberts Art Foundation, London Group
2013Young CollectorsMaison Particulière Art Center, Brussels Group
2013The Nomadic MuseDe Vleeshal, Middelburg Group
2013Critique and Crises. Art in Europe Since 1945Kumu Art Museum, Tallinn Group
2013Baza(A)R Belg(I)ËCENTRALE for contemporary art, Brussels Group
2013Postscript: Writing After Conceptual ArtThe Power Plant, Toronto, ON Group
2013Die Sammlung #3Schweizergarten, Vienna Group
2013As if it CouldHerbert Foundation, Ghent Group
2013Push pins in elastic spaceGalerie Nelson-Freeman, Paris Group
2013Gut aufgelegt. Die Sammlung Heinz BeckWilhelm Hack Museum, Ludwigshafen Group
2013lost for wordsGalleri Susanne Ottesen, Copenhagen Group
2013NuageMusée Réattu, Arles Group
2013WanderlustChengdu Museum of Contemporary Art MoCA, Chengdu, Sichuan Group
2013The Handler of GravityEssex Street, New York City, NY Group
2013Contra TàpiesFundación Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona Group
2013Cherry PickingKarma International, Zurich Group
2012Marcel Broodthaers. L'espace de l'écritureGalleria d'Arte Moderna di Bologna, Bologna Solo
2012Marcel BroodthaersCAMPOLI PRESTI, London Solo
2012Inaugural ExhibitionRichard Saltoun, London Group
2012Cellblock IiAndrea Rosen Gallery, New York City, NY Group
2012Cartografías contemporáneasCaixaForum Barcelona, Barcelona Group
2012Cartografías contemporáneas. Dibujando el pensamientoCaixaForum Madrid, Madrid Group
2012Die Sammlung #2Schweizergarten, Vienna Group
2012Language GamesCentro de Artes Visuales Helga de Alvear, Cáceres Group
2012Se souvenir de la merChâteau d’Avignon, Saintes-Maries-de la MerGroup
2012In the HoloceneMIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, MA Group
2012Now Here is also Nowhere: Part IHenry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle, WA Group
2012From Page to SpaceGalerija Murska Sobota, Murska Sobota Group
2012EnsemblematicSMAK Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Ghent Group
2012SilenceThe Menil Collection, Houston, TX Group
2012The Small Utopia. Ars MultiplicataFondazione Prada, Venice Group
2012Wanderlust: A Never Ending Journey To The Other Side Of The HillArtsonje Center, Seoul Group
2012Alice im Wunderland der KunstHamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg Group
2012GraphologyThe Drawing Room, London Group
2012Salon du dessin 2012Galerie de France, Paris Group
2012AnimismusHaus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin Group
2012Martin Visser: collector, designer, free spiritBonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht Group
2012DétournementsKeitelman Gallery, Brussels Group
2012Asche und Gold Eine WeltenreiseMARTa Herford, Herford Group
2012Utopie GesamtkunstwerkSchweizergarten, Vienna Group
2012Spirits Of InternationalismMuHKA Museum voor Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen, AntwerpGroup
2011Marcel BroodthaersCheapart, Athens Solo
2010Marcel Broodthaers: Col.lecció d'obra gráfica i llibresGalería Kewenig, Palma de Mallorca Solo
2010Marcel Broodthaers und heute: Im Rahmen der Quadriennale 2010Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Dusseldorf Solo
2010Marcel Broodthaers: Section CinemaMarian Goodman Gallery, New York City, NY Solo
2010Marcel Broodthaers: Major WorksMichael Werner Gallery, New York City, NY Solo
2010The Promised LandSchloss Pillnitz, Dresden Solo
2009Marcel Broodthaers: Ne dites pas que je ne l'ai pas ditPeter Freeman, Inc., New York City, NY Solo
2008Marcel BroodthaersSutton Lane, Paris, Paris Solo
2008Décor: A Conquest by Marcel BroodthaersArts Club of Chicago, Chicago, IL Solo
2008Marcel BroodthaersMilton Keynes Gallery, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire Solo
2007Décor: A Conquest by Marcel BroodthaersMichael Werner Gallery, New York City, NY Solo
2006Pense-BêteSMAK Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Ghent Solo
2006Three Works by Marcel BroodthaersPeter Freeman, Inc., New York City, NY Solo
2005A Voyage On The North SeaThomas Solomon Gallery, Los Angeles, CA Solo
2005Marcel BroodthaersMuseo de la Pasión, Valladolid Solo
2003Marcel BroodthaersTexte und Photos, Cologne Solo
2003Marcel BroodthaersMuseumsquartier, Vienna Solo
2003Marcel Broodthaers: Objects and Works on PaperMichael Werner Gallery, New York City, NY Solo
1998La Fin de la Monde: Brief an FoucaultGalerie Borgemeister, Berlin Solo
1998Marcel BroodthaersMuseum für Gegenwart, Berlin Solo
1997Marcel BroodthaersKunsthalle Düsseldorf, Dusseldorf Solo
1997a b cGalerie Borgemeister, Berlin Solo
1997Marcel Broodthaers. CinémaFundación Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona Solo
1996Marcel Broodthaers, Graphik und BücherKunsthalle Göppingen, Göppingen Solo
1996Marcel BroodthaersSprengel Museum Hannover, Hannover Solo
1995Marcel Broodthaers: The Complete EditionsArts Club of Chicago, Chicago, IL Solo
1995Marcel BroodthaersDavid Zwirner, Inc., New York City, NY Solo
1995The Broodthaers KabinetStedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven Solo
1992Marcel Broodthaers: The Complete Prints And MultiplesInstitute of Contemporary Arts, London Solo
1992Marcel BroodthaersGalerie Daniel Blau, Munich Solo
1992Marcel Broodthaerskunstraum muenchen, Munich Solo
1992Marcel BroodthaersMuseo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid Solo
1991Marcel BroodthaersJeu de Paume, Paris Solo
1991Marcel BroodthaersCentre d'édition contemporaine, Geneva Solo
1989Marcel BroodthaersMOCA Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA Solo
1989Marcel BroodthaersMary Boone Gallery, New York City, NY Solo
1988Marcel BroodthaersGalerie Watari, Tokyo Solo
1988Marcel BroodthaersMusée d'Art Contemporain Lyon, Lyon Solo
1987Marcel BroodthaersGalerie Pablo Stähli , Zurich Solo
1984Marcel BroodthaersMary Boone Gallery, New York City, NY Solo
1983Marcel BroodthaersKunsthaus Zürich, Zurich Solo
1982Marcel BroodthaersGalleria Anna D’Ascanio, Rome Solo
1982Marcel Broodthaers 1924–1976Moderna Museet, Stockholm Solo
1982Marcel BroodthaersKunsthalle Bern, Bern Solo
1980Marcel BroodthaersMuseum Ludwig, Cologne Solo
1975Marcel BroodthaersInstitute of Contemporary Arts, London Solo
1974Marcel Broodthaers: Éloge du sujetKunstmuseum Basel, Basel Solo
1972Marcel BroodthaersKunsthalle Düsseldorf, Dusseldorf Solo
1971Marcel Broodthaers: Film als ObjektStädtisches Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach Solo
1970Marcel BroodthaersGalerie MTL, Brussels Solo