A Belgian artist's homemade pseudo-museum gets recreated at La Monnaie de Paris
Had enough of what Paris’s museums and galleries have to offer? Why not do what Belgian artist Marcel Broodthaers did back in 1968: open your own. For Broodthaers, it was really that simple. Appointing himself director of a new Brussels ‘institute’, he got to work building and exhibiting his collection out of his own house. Postcards of 19th century paintings (taped to walls), experimental films, empty frames, military kepis and cigar wrappers – all were enshrined in this singularly bizarre temple to modern art.
For its spring/summer exhibition, La Monnaie de Paris has, after much research, painstakingly reconstructed Broodthaers ‘museum’, which closed in 1972. As silly and poetic as Broodthaers’ original, La Monnaie’s exhibition reopens important questions, first broached by artists like Marcel Duchamps and Broodthaers (of course) in the early ’60s: what constitutes a work of art? How do museums shape a spectator’s experience of a given work? How does art’s commercial dimension distort or corrupt a work’s intentions?
The genius of Broodthaers’ short-lived museum lay in his attention to detail: observing strict hours of operation, prohibiting children, and posting absurd explanatory labels alongside all ‘works’. He even established acquisitions and public relations departments. To drum up funds for his project, he sold gold bars for twice their value, explaining that the inflated prices were meant to reflect the bars’ status as works of art.
La Monnaie’s exhibition is surprisingly provocative given the venue – and especially so with Jeff Koons’ gaudy balloon animals on display across the river