The theater of objects by Daniel Spoerri / Focus works


Daniel Spoerri, La Sainte famille, 1986, de la série « Trésor des pauvres »
Centre Pompidou, Paris - Musée national d'art moderne - Centre de création industrielle - © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-Grand Palais/ Daniel Spoerri / Adagp, Paris, 2021

Daniel Spoerri, La Sainte famille, 1986, de la série « Trésor des pauvres »
Centre Pompidou, Paris – Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle – © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI/Philippe Migeat/Dist. RMN-Grand Palais/ Daniel Spoerri/ Adagp, Paris, 2021

On a polyester tapestry that represents a group of felines, Spoerri adds a baby doll hidden in plastic foliage. In this revisited nativity the lion, shown in majesty, is haloed by a yellow neon light like an apostle. However, it has kitsch and derisory aspect that evokes a long-lost might. In the 1980s, the “Poor people’s treasury” seizes the popular hijacking of the great tradition of Aubusson’s tapestries. The trinkets sublimate while sabotaging the virility of the mostly animal scenes, denouncing the “desperate nostalgia for beauty, power, wealth*” that they represent.

*Daniel Spoerri in André Kamber, Hans Saner et Jean-Paul Ameline (dir.), Petit lexique sentimental autour de Daniel Spoerri, Paris, Centre George Pompidou, 1990, p.119.

Daniel Spoerri, Les Puces, 1961
Collection MAC VAL – Musée d’art contemporain du Val-de-Marne Photo Jacques Faujour, © Adagp, Paris, 2021

Established according to the laws of chance and good fortune, the Snare Picture targets painting in its classical acceptance: the object is no longer represented but presented; the question of composition is relegated to chance; the artist’s gesture is reduced to a minimal and distanced action: sticking and tilting. The object’s hunt first concerns the flea market stalls valuing a practice that was then marginal and against the flow of modernity. In these little theaters, the spectator learns a moving optical lesson: even the humblest and ridiculous things and practices can bring emotion. Despite their intimate and unknown story, they touch personal and collective memory, real or fantasized. We can feel, in this universe of retrieval and anonymity, the stigma of war and of the Holocaust which have marked Spoerri whose father was murdered in 1941 during a pogrom. This folding table from a flea market refers to the do-it-yourself. This world of invention, recuperation that reasserts the central place of the human, the importance of scraps and “doing” is at odds with the idea of modernity promoted in the 1960s. A label which we can’t fully read, “Not to be”, evokes the atrocities of war and the existential question it raises.

Daniel Spoerri, Tondre un œuf, 1964
Collection privée, Courtesy galerie GP & N Vallois, Paris, © Adagp, Paris, 2021

He would shave an egg, is said of a very stingy person who wishes to spare more than he should, on anything and by any means. The “Word Traps” literally translate imagined popular expressions. These surrealist tricks show his affinity with the artist Robert Filliou, with whom he initiated this series in 1964.

Daniel Spoerri, Le Parc de bébé, 1961 «Faux tableau-piège»
Collection Peruz, Milan, © Adagp, Paris, 2021

This series “consists in imagining and composing a situation that in all its details could be due to chance, and which optically could be a real snare picture. Example: hanged on the wall, the playpen containing the messy objects and toys that a child could have left there if he had really played.*” Here, Daniel Spoerri copies randomness and parodies his own work by blurring the line between truth and falsehood.

*Daniel Spoerri in cat. expo. Hommage à Isaac Feinstein, Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum, 1971, p.21.

Daniel Spoerri, Action Restaurant Spoerri, Düsseldorf, 27 avril 1972 de la série « Tableau-piège »
Collection privée, Milan Photo Fabio Mantegna, © Adagp, Paris, 2021

The Restaurant Spoerri is inaugurated in Dusseldorf in 1968. The space is friendly, full of life, favorable to exchanges and meetings. Friends, artists, cooks and poets take turns at the stove. The menu surprises the customers and becomes a permanent happening: python ragout, slices of elephant trunk… At the end of the meal, the tables can be fixed, encapsulated and then sold. The blue panels covering the tables became emblematic of this high place of art and cuisine. In 1972, which marks the end of this adventure for Spoerri as artistic director, a snare picture is produced every day under the generic title Action Restaurant Spoerri.

Daniel Spoerri, Réplique de la Chambre 13 de l’Hôtel Carcassonne, (24, rue Mouffetard), Paris, 1998 (détail)
Collection MAMAC, Nice, Don de la Fondation Fondation RNK – Courtesy Galerie Henze & Ketterer, Wichtrach/Bern Photo Christian Baur, Bâle, 2001, © Adagp, Paris, 2021

In 1998, Daniel Spoerri created this monumental work for the “Invested Spaces” exhibition at the Guggenheim in New York. The scale 1 reconstruction of his first Parisian bedroom, made from memories and photographs, offers a symbolic and memorial immersion: a perfect mise en abyme of the trap, in the very place where this gesture/concept was created. This ersatz studio, a sort of period room, with its furniture, objects, crockery and works, evokes a falsely suspended slice of life. The work addresses the question of reproducibility, reconstitution and recreation in art and archaeology. The Musée de la Chambre 13 thus synthesises the artist’s research linking the first snare pictures of the 1960s to the collections and museums imagined from the 1970s to the present day. This major work has been donated to the MAMAC thanks to the exceptional generosity of the Fondation RNK and the involvement of the Henze-Ketterer gallery.

Daniel Spoerri, de la série « La Médecine opératoire dessinée d’après nature par N.H. Jacob (1839) réinterprétée par D. Spoerri » (Épingles et Pansements), 1993
Collection Peruz, Milan Photo Nicola Righetti – © Adagp, Paris, 2021

Several works are based on 19th century scientific works. This is the case of the series “La médecine opératoire dessinée d’après nature par N.H. Jacob (1839) réinterprétée par Daniel Spoerri” and “Cabinet anatomique”. Begun in 1993, this body of work takes a look at the human body, which is rarely visible (but omnipresent) in his work. The lithographs used are taken from the Traité complet de l’anatomie de l’homme (1831-1854), a monumental masterpiece by Jean-Baptiste Marc Bourgery, consisting of sixteen volumes and seven hundred and twenty-five lithographs by Nicolas Henri Jacob. Spoerri confronts engravings of the fragmented human body with objects that are sometimes incisive, sometimes poetic: tools, pins, artificial flowers, costume or precious jewellery, scissors, knives, buttons, toys, shells, embroidery, bandages, etc. This subtle combination mixes the beauty of the human body and graphic precision with the cold and violent atrocity of operations in a Freak Show spirit

Daniel Spoerri, Coupe-ongles de Brancusi, 1965
Collection privée, Belgique Photo Paul Louis, Bruxelles, © Adagp, Paris, 2021

The Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi’s nail clippers (1876 – 1957) are exhibited in the Musée des reliques fétichistes at the Centre Pompidou in Paris in 1977. It is joined by a label where Daniel Spoerri explains that he stole it in the artist’s studio after his death, impasse Ronsin in Paris, where his friend Jean Tinguely also had his studio. The common, usual and intimate tool becomes, through its exhibition and this unverifiable anecdote, a sacred object.

Daniel Spoerri, Invitation-Menu du Restaurant de la galerie J, Paris, 2 – 13 mars 1963
Bibliothèque nationale suisse, Cabinet des estampes : archives Daniel Spoerri © Adgp, Paris 2021

In March 1963, Daniel Spoerri transforms the Galerie J in Paris (directed by Jeanine Goldschmidt) into a restaurant. During those ten evenings, the “Chef Daniel” imagines an around the world gastronomic trip going from the Franco-Niçois, Hungarian, Romanian or Swiss menu to the exotic buffet with a stop by the prison, up to an artistic detour with a meal full of puns dedicated to the unstripper artist Raymond Hains. The artist calls on art critics to serve the dishes. This action-show stages the relationships between the artist, the critics, the gallery and the public. On the gallery-restaurant’s walls is exhibited Spoerri’s collection of 723 kitchen tools. Once replete, guests take part to the making of snare pictures with the leftover meals. The tables of different sizes thus fixed testify to shared moments that are sacred, ritualized and hung on the walls of the space that has once again become an art gallery for the opening of the “Trap Menus” exhibition.

Daniel Spoerri dans sa Chambre 13 de l’hôtel Carcassonne, Paris, 1961
Bibliothèque nationale suisse, Cabinet des estampes : archives Daniel Spoerri, Photo Vera Mercer, © Adagp, Partis, 2021

Located on rue Mouffetard in the Latin Quarter of Paris, this small room in the Hotel Carcassonne was his home and work space from 1959 to 1965, embodying his arrival in Paris. The artist considers it « the birthplace, in short, of his artistic identity* ».

*Marco Bazzini, Stefano Pezzato, Daniel Spoerri, Non Per Caso, Centro per l’arte contemporanea Luigi Peci, 2007, p.159.

The exhibition
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