Daniel Spoerri

° 1930

Born in Galati (RO), lives in Vienna (AT).

The Swiss visual artist, writer and publisher Daniel Spoerri was born in Romania as Daniel Isaac Feinstein and had a remarkable family history. After Romania joined Nazi Germany in 1940 his father converted from Judaism to Christianity but was arrested and murdered in 1941. His mother, born Lydia Spoerri, was a Swiss national and managed to escape to Switzerland with her six children in 1942. Spoerri was adopted by his uncle and officially registered as Daniel Spoerri. During the 1950s he was active as a ballet dancer at the Bern State Opera, later performing various avant-garde plays, including those by Picasso. In the years that followed he collaborated with pioneering artists such as Jean Tinguely, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Robert Filliou and Emmett Williams.

As an artist Spoerri is mainly identified with the French Nouveau Réalisme. In 1960 he was one of the original signatories of the manifesto that established the avant-garde movement. The premise is that everyday life is the most important art subject, which is closely in line with the principles of the later Fluxus movement characterised by a strongly Dadaist attitude focused on joy, spontaneity and humour. As a pacesetter and pivotal figure of the avant-garde Spoerri forged close ties with the international art world. At the same time he led a nomadic existence between Bern, Paris, the Greek island of Symi, Düsseldorf, Basel, Munich and Vienna. In 1997 he added the Tuscan town of Seggiano, where he opened Il Giardino di Daniel Spoerri (Daniel Spoerri's Garden), a sculpture garden exhibiting works by his artist friends.

His conceptual oeuvre focuses largely on the artistic and 'cultural' value of food. His Tableaux pièges ('trap images') are a form of assemblage and object art in which he captures table objects and residues. Remnants of meals, including plates, cutlery and glasses are assembled on the table or plate and then displayed on a wall. His first Tableaux piège is entitled Kichka's breakfast and is made from the leftover breakfast of his then girlfriend. The work can be found in the MOMA collection. Another Tableaux piège consists of the remains of a meal eaten by Marcel Duchamp, earning Spoerri a price record at auction.

However, his oeuvre is much broader than that and perhaps even more of a 'continuous activity' than an oeuvre in the classical sense. In 1959 he founded Editions MAT ('Multiplication d'art Transformable'), an artistic company that produces (and sells!) copies of three-dimensional works of art by Marcel Duchamp, Dieter Roth, Jean Tinguely and Victor Vasarely, among others. One of the most famous productions of Editions MAT was Man Ray's Indestructible Object. Spoerri is credited with coining the now common term 'multiple' for such works.

For an opening in 1959 by his friend Jean Tinguely at Galerie Schmela in Düsseldorf, he devised what would later be called 'a performance'; three people simultaneously read three texts with three different approaches to Tinguely's art.

In 1970 he published his diary about his life on the small (and hardly accessible) Greek Cyclades island of Symi in which he included numerous recipes for the native dishes he ate there. Completely in the spirit of Fluxus it was published under the melodious title Mythology & Meatballs.              



* Note: Beginning in 1959, Daniel Spoerri works as an assistant-director in Darmstadt. He is also publisher of Material, a review of concrete poetry. It is in the Hessenhuis that he makes his debut as artist. The Autotheater, that the M HKA has obtained permission to reconstruct, is probably one of the first interactive installations within the context of an art exhibition.

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