Ma collection

Marcel Broodthaers


Collage, panel: 100 × 65 cm.
Materials: assemblage en collage op beide zijden van twee panelen

Collection: Stad Antwerpen, in langdurige bruikleen in M HKA (Inv. no. SCA0048).

Ma collection is a diptych on which both sides of the two panels were worked. In 1971 Marcel Broodthaers exhibited Ma collection for the first time at the Wide White Space Gallery at the Kölner Kunstmarkt. Broodthaers is a contextual artist and this work is a reflection on the relationship between art and the art market. At that same time Broodthaers was also represented by Michael Werner, who exhibited his Section Financière, subtitled 'Musée d'Art Moderne à vendre pour cause de faillite'. With the Section Financière as an allusion to his own financial difficulties that would have forced him to put his Museum up for sale on the art market and make his status as a job seeker public, Ma collection reads simply like a curriculum vitae. Although the bankruptcy in Cologne could also probably  refer to an ideological bankruptcy of the museum institute.

In 1972 Broodthaers exhibited the work in a group exhibition called Amsterdam, Paris, Düsseldorf, organised by the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Broodthaers, who moved from Brussels to Düsseldorf in 1970, was part of the German section. The work has been included in every retrospective exhibition since his death.

Despite the great visibility, it remains an enigmatic work. The red ballpoint pen is a particularly eye-catching detail: 'Klischee 1/1'.  The right panel (recto) contains smaller black-and-white photographs of the covers of Broodthaers catalogues with fig. 1, fig. 2, fig. 3, etc. The list is repeated. The top part is the design for the bottom page from the art fair catalogue. A cliché has a printing technical meaning but also refers to 'something that has been said so often that it doesn't have much meaning anymore'. But a cliché is also an important element of publicity and is designed to be disseminated. For example, an art critic will also generate clichés to promote artists. It is the epitome of this game that Broodthaers expresses with Ma collection

We also recognise two typical motifs: the portrait of French poet Stéphane Mallarmé and the use of 'fig.'. One an image of a poet, the other a word to indicate an image as an illustration within the context of a text. They both move between word and image. Starting out as a bookseller and poet Broodthaers made his début in the art world as a pop art artist. But he soon returned to his familiar world and placed his oeuvre in a historical, literary perspective. He entered into an active dialogue with a number of predecessors, such as seventeenth-century fable writer Jean de La Fontaine, visual artist René Magritte and the nineteenth-century poets Charles Baudelaire and Stéphane Mallarmé. In 1969 Broodthaers dedicated an entire installation to the latter: Marcel Broodthaers à la Deblioudebliou/S Exposition littéraire autour de Mallarmé, Wide White Space Gallery, Antwerp.

In an accompanying statement about the work, which appeared in the 1972 Amsterdam, Paris, Düsseldorf exhibition catalogue, Broodthaers described Ma collection as a tautological work with more meaning than a stamp collection. With his museums Broodthaers had mainly focused on the institutional aspect of collecting, but from Ma collection a more inward movement began in which he used his own visual path to increase layers of meaning. Catalogues and exhibition-related publications are an active part of the intertextuality of Broodthaers's  artistic practice, but with Ma collection Broodthaers also transcends the referential and comes close to an ultimate self-portrait.

With a red felt-tipped pen, Broodthaers added ‘Cologne 71 M.B. … à l’occasion d’une foire sans importance …’

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