Sunday, December 18, 2016

La Conquête de l'espace, Atlas by Marcel Broodthaers (MoMA 2016 facsimile edition)

The great Belgian artist Marcel Broodthaers was responsible for some of the most important developments in conceptual art - playfully manipulating both artistic materials and exhibition spaces, his work revolutionized how we as viewers engage with art. Often shelved alongside the Surrealists, I feel Broodthaers is more at home in the realm of philosophy and consider his work a strange sort of visual literary theory. He was a poet until his 40s, and made his debut in the art world by creating a plaster sculpture out of his unsold poetry books (a now-famous publication and sculpture called "Pense-Bête"). Despite some incredible punning sculptures using mussel shells and lumps of coal, he was a poet at heart and has a large body of work that exemplifies this devotion to writing. During his life Broodthaers made a number of wonderful artist's books - I'm particularly fond of a version of Mallarmé's Roll of the Dice he created using engraved aluminum plates, one of which is in the MoMA's permanent collection.

When the MoMA had their retrospective in the spring, they produced a edition of Broodthaers' La Conquête de l'espace - Atlas à l'usage des artistes et des militaires. This book is a "world atlas" with an incomplete selection of countries in alphabetical order, each scaled to be the same size as Belgium. There's more: the book itself is only 4 x 3 cm. It's exquisitely well produced for such a novel idea, and the original edition of 50 occasionally come up at auction for a hefty sum (in the tens of thousands of dollars). MoMA's version is much cheaper, in an edition of 500, and comes in a nice silk box with a foam lining:


Here's a detail of the book's title page (special thanks to my recently-manicured wife):

The book is still available from MoMA. While not particularly cheap, I think its a must for Broodthaers fans and for the art-inclined book collector.

Currently reading:
Universal Harvester by John Darnielle

Currently listening to:

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