Marcel Broodthaers (January 28, 1924 – January 28, 1976) was a Belgian poet, filmmaker and artist with a highly literate and often witty approach to creating art works.
He was born in Brussels, Belgium, where he was associated with the Groupe Surréaliste-revolutionaire from 1945 and dabbled in journalism, film, and poetry. After spending 20 years in poverty as a struggling poet, he performed the symbolic act of embedding fifty unsold copies of his book of poems Pense-Bête in plaster, creating his first art object. That same year, 1964, for his first exhibition, he wrote a famous preface for the exhibition catalogue;
\”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. If I sell something, he takes 30%. It seems these are the usual conditions, some galleries take 75%. What is it? In fact it is objects.\” Broodthaers, 1964
He worked principally with assemblies of found objects and collage, often containing written texts. His most noted work was an installation in his Brussels house which he called Musée d\’Art Moderne, Départment des Aigles (1968). This installation was followed by a further eleven manifestations of the \’museum\’, including at the Düsseldorf Kunsthalle for an exhibition in 1970 and at documenta 5 in Kassel in 1972. For such works he is associated with the late 20th century global spread of both installation art, as well as \”institutional critique,\” in which interrelationships between artworks, the artist, and the museum are a focus.
Broodthaers died in Cologne, Germany on his 52nd birthday.