January 29, 2017

Happy Birthday, Marcel Broodthaers!

Me and Broodhaers, Broodthaers and me

I didn’t know a birthday party for a dead man could be so much fun. Of course, Marcel Broodhaers was a man for “s’amuser”, in his art, but also in life, with good quality wine and good quality suits. The memorial party, organized by artist Ofri Lapid and art historian Michal B. Ron, took place in Aperto Reading Room (a new art magazine in Russian and English), which is located at Sammlung Hoffmann. That’s why original Broodthaers pieces from the collection were exhibited in the space. And now the good news: I was invited to exhibit the Broodthaers-sketch I did for this blog... I know, my artist career couldn’t have started better! The importance of it only dawned on me the next morning when waking up, and I hurried to add the fact to my CV. Let me repeat it: I was in a duo exhibition with Marcel Broodthaers!

Another thing I was excited about was the food: mussels and whipped cream cake (a reference to Broodthaers Berlin or a Whipped Cream Dream of 1974). Delicious. And then there was the story telling. The party guests were invited to tap their wine glass and tell stories about Broodthaers. You know that I know a lot of good Broodthaers stories from a first-class source, his widow Maria Gilissen. I told you already about the mussels on the rooftop, and remember Broodthaers’ dislike of Max Ernst, and then the story about how he liked to sing along with Jacques Brel’s Ca sent la bière de Londres à Berlin! I was quite starring I must say, totally feeling in my element, singing the Brel song out loud - believe me, I wasn’t even drunk. Legendary Kasper König jumped in with a funny story about how Broodthaers liked to spend his money well when he had it (he often didn't), inviting friends for drinks, film and dancing. Once Kasper König started to talk, other household names of the German 20th century art world (only male, I have to mention) loosened their tongues. Rudolf Zwirner remembered how Broodthaers gave his doctor a towel decorated with palm trees to compensate for the costs when he was sick. The doctor asked Zwirner what to do with it, and Zwirner recommended him to just put it together with the other towels in the bathroom. Decades later the doctor managed to sell it.

Casserole with mussels 

Zwirner mentioned the name Joseph Beuys, and that triggered Jürgen Harten, who had been the curator of Broodthaers’ 1972 show Musée d’Art Moderne, Département des Aigles at the Kunsthalle in Düsseldorf. Beuys had a nose for when something unusual was happening. So first thing he did was showing up at the Department des Aigles for an interview - not with Broodthaers but with himself. Hehe! In the end, the storytelling became more of a lamenting about the contemporary art world: for instance, how the art world uses “post-” in everything possible: “Das Wort ‘post-’ ist kriminell!” (“The word ‘post-’ is criminal!”), so Jürgen Harten. I think the nicest remark was made by Zwirner, saying that some think that Broodthaers was a melancholic - who else was thinking about the 19th century back then? But Broodthaers wasn’t a melancholic. He just knew that art is essentially melancholic: it tries something it cannot reach. 

Berlin or a Whipped Cream Dream

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