Gewürzkasten, 1970

Spice Cabinet, 1970
Object, 60 x 120 x 17 cm

In his long relationship with foodstuffs and organic matter as artistic material, Dieter Roth has incorporated such diverse and unusual elements as chocolate, cheese, sugar, birdseed, hamburgers and chips, turning them into pictorial material. He was interested in the process of transformation, the idea of putrefaction and the aggressive smell of decay. By 1970 he had begun to incorporate scents in his paintings and objects, and, in collaboration with the bookbinder Rudolf Rieser, he also began to include more sophisticated materials like spices. As Rieser himself explained in a 1997 interview: ‘Encouraged by the wonderful aromas of a herb market where spices were kept in large bags, we arrived at the idea of using them to make objects.’

Thereafter, Roth asked Rieser to produce different objects following the same pattern. From a cabinetmaker in Dusseldorf they commissioned a series of wooden containers – cupboards or large-boxes – fitted with glass panels on one side. Each container was filled with layers of different spices. Some of these cabinets have a metal handle on the top, such that they can be opened to smell the contents. The aroma often permeates the wood and glass, invading the space. While some of these works hang on the wall as if they were paintings, others such as Gewürzkasten (Spice Cabinet) are freestanding in space like sculpture. Although the piece invites a visual reading of the different colours and textures of the various layers of overlapping spices, seen behind glass like a landscape, the work primarily addresses a sense often overlooked in the visual arts: smell. Dieter Roth himself explained that the olfactory sense was the first sense to which he intended these works to appeal: ‘For me, smell is the great vehicle of memory.’


Technical details

Original title:
Registration number:
Roth, Dieter
Date created:
Date acquired:
MACBA Collection. MACBA Foundation
Object type:
Wood, glass, metal and spices
60 x 120 x 17 cm (height x width x depth)
MACBA Collection. MACBA Foundation
© Estate of Dieter Roth
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Accessibility resources
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The MACBA Collection features Catalan, Spanish and international art and, although it includes works from the 1920s onwards, its primary focus is on the period between the 1960s and the present.

For more information on the work or the artist, please consult MACBA's Library. To request a loan of the work, please write to colleccio [at] macba.cat.

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Detail Dieter Roth "Gewürzkasten", 1970