Marcel Broodthaers focuses on the sphere of the museum in his study of the definitions of art and its distribution systems, starting from a rejection of the traditional framework of the institution. In his work he plays with the stability of artistic categories, subverts the traditional relations between the art object and the presentation and reception systems. He questions the museum from the relations between the work and the social environment, in other words, he questions the very function of the work and the public. He uses decontextualisation and accumulation techniques which allow him to tackle different levels of fiction of the work and the exhibition: the decorated décor is an illusion, the artificiality of the art event taken to the extreme, in contrast with the idea of truth of the traditional art object.

In Broodthaers’ work there is an interest in giving the same status to the word as to the image. Language is understood as a system of representation and reality in itself. It was no accident that in 1969 he put on a literary exhibition about Mallarmé at the Wide White Space in Antwerp, and in the same year, by replacing the text with black stripes, he reinterpreted the publication of the poet’s Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard. Those works investigated new ways of arranging words in space and their use as a work of art, according to a poetic procedure.

In 1975 he presented the exhibition L’Angelus de Daumier at the Centre National d’Art Contemporain in Paris, at which each room had the name of a colour. La Salle blanche was a reconstruction, as faithful as possible (?), —the question mark he added himself— of a work done in 1968 in Brussels, the result of a protest movement which marked the Belgium art world at the time and culminated in the occupation of the Palais des Beaux Arts. In the first version, he installed a kind of museum open to the public in his studio so that, on the one hand, he subverted the notion of the official institution, and on the other, questioned the relation of the museum and the work, since the works were reduced to mere reproductions and the condition of merchandise. In the second version of La Salle blanche, which we are presenting at MACBA, a space reconstructs a pre-existing place. In this case, art and language are literally united and the artist’s discourse is transferred to the walls of the room reconstructed on the same scale, covered with words referring to the world of art.



Marcel Broodthaers,
La Salle blanche, 1975