Daniel Spoerri – Metteur en scène d'objets

16 May – 2 September 2001

The Jean Tinguely Museum in Basel will be holding a comprehensive Daniel Spoerri Exhibition from 16 May to 2 September 2001, displaying major items on loan from public and private collections.

It has been organized in close collaboration with the artist, who is now seventy years old, and aims to provide a record of the inventiveness and developments that have characterized his creative work from his early period in the late 1950s to the present day.
It continues the series of exhibitions of work by Tinguely’s artist friends.

Daniel Spoerri was born Daniel Feinstein in 1930 in Romania, and in 1942 fled to Switzerland with his mother, whose maiden name he now uses. He came to art indirectly; his first creative endeavours were in the fields of poetry and dance, but they already pointed the way to his pictorial work of the future. In the 1950s, while working as a dancer and director at Berne Municipal Theatre, he discovered his preference and talent for stage sets (Ionesco, Picasso, Tardieu).

He approached the visual arts as an autodidact in Paris, and his great interest in space and movement led him to turn his attention quite early to kinetic art. In 1959 he initiated the Edition MAT (Multiplication d’Art Transformable), which was based on the idea of art multiples, i.e. the multiplication of art which constantly alters itself and is capable of modification. His artist friends were also involved, particularly Marcel Duchamp, Karl Gerstner, Diter Rot and Jean Tinguely. The first notable expression of his ideas as a visual artist was with his Tableau-Piège (“snare picture”) of 1959/60, a chance arrangement of objects which he mounted on its base and hung on the wall as a picture. Working on the principle of assemblage and starting from Tableau-Piège, he created further pictorial series, for instance his Détrompe l’oeil, which explores the tension between reality and its depiction.

The exhibition attempts to illustrate the stages of this development and the interlinking network between them. For instance, the Détrompe l’oeil cycle deliberately exposes our habits of perception, aiming to create intriguing illusions. Spoerri attracted much attention with “Eat Art” and his famous banquets, his ethnosyncretic works Corps en morceaux, the Carneval des Animaux, and the Musée sentimental. However, a constant feature in his cycles of themes is the existential questions which they raise, documenting his approach to the concerns of his time.

The reconstruction of the famous Chambre No. 13 of the Hôtel Carcassonne, rue de Mouffetard, Paris, allows us to enter one of Spoerri’s worlds in the context of this exhibition. We see the studio of his first years in Paris, which also acted as workplace, display room and store-room, a scene that could scarcely be more authentically re-experienced. Here the demarcations between art and everyday life are obliterated, not in the street but in the artist’s room.

Using as his material ordinary objets trouvés and their origins, Spoerri creates new ironic and subversive worlds in chance arrangements of assemblages and staged scenes. As a “metteur en scène d’objets”, he turns ordinary life into art and brings art into ordinary life.

The borders between art and life are blurred: this was an axiom of the Parisian Nouveaux Réalistes generation of artists, of which Spoerri was a founding member. In this he is also linked with Jean Tinguely. As a friend even before those first years in Paris, he witnessed Tinguely’s creative activities at close quarters. In his own words: “Anyone who knows me can imagine what pleasure it gives me to set my work beside his. Our friendship began in 1949, and yet it is in dialectical contradiction: the fixed moment on one side, movement on the other – and for that very reason the two influence each other.”

For the last ten years Spoerri has lived in Tuscany, working in Seggiano on a sculpture park open to the public where nature itself becomes the stage set for his installations, and is redetermined by interaction with them.

A new publication Anekdotomania: Daniel Spoerri über Daniel Spoerri in close collaboration with the artist will be issued for the exhibition. Daniel Spoerri presents himself as an author and leads through his life and work.