Kunstforum spoerri 2376

21.04.2021

Daniel Spoerri: 5 works not to be missed

Chance readily directs the work of the Swiss object artist Daniel Spoerri. Perhaps you know his “snare pictures”? These are the firmly glued-down remains of a laid table, which is hung on the wall. Empty plates, full ashtrays, a casual chaos

Spoerri, who was born in Romania in 1930, has, amongst other things, written cookbooks, created an artists’ garden in Tuscany and made films. “It was important to me to show that he is a universal artist”, says Veronika Rudorfer. She has curated a wide-ranging exhibition about Spoerri at the Bank Austria Kunstforum in Vienna. And here she explains to you, exclusively, which five artworks you cannot afford to miss in this great show, which is also a lot of fun.

1. Der General, 1962

Daniel Spoerri loves flea markets. He has been living near the Naschmarkt in Vienna since 2007. When we aren’t in a corona lockdown, you can often see him on a Saturday at the flea market, where he is constantly on the lookout for objects. In his apartment, he has a huge collection of everyday items, from stuffed animals via old children’s shoes to 19th-century dental instruments. I have selected the assemblage “Der General”, because you can clearly see how Spoerri works: He gives objets trouvés a new narrative. He discovered the painting on a Parisian flea market and added such things as a blood pressure monitor, sweets and safety pins. As a result, a venerable military portrait is humorously reinterpreted and given a whole new meaning.

2. Santo Grappa, 1971

This is Daniel Spoerri’s first work in bronze. He started using the material intensively in 1971, with the highpoint being Il Giardino, a large, publicly accessible park in Tuscany that is full of works of art.

Spoerri loves word games and ambiguities. Ideally you should watch one of his many video interviews because you will realise what a very funny person he is. There is also a good story about the title “Santo Grappa”: In the late 1960s, Spoerri opened a restaurant in Düsseldorf. As the owner he always had to drink a lot with the guests. He says that his work on “Santo Grappa” – with its highly expressive title – freed him from this “obligation”.

3. Restaurant de la City Galerie, 1965

This really makes one feel like sitting down at the table. The history of the so-called “snare pictures” is fascinating. From 1963, Spoerri repeatedly transformed galleries into restaurants for short periods. He did the cooking while art critics, who were all men in those days, were the waiters. People who otherwise spent their time writing art criticism in newspapers were suddenly serving visitors their dinner. Of course there were amusing reactions: Several newspapers commented, with a hint of acrimony, that the art critics had finally found a meaningful job. At the end of the evening, the tables were then fixed and, the next day, they were hanging on the wall. These have presented restorers with a major challenge. Can you see the two rolls in the bread basket? Over the decades, numerous animals have attacked them. But chemistry has, of course, also made progress and we can now preserve the objects for eternity with the help of varnishes and resins. So that no more little animals can crawl their way in.

4. Palette pour Grégoire Müller, 1992

This is a work from the series “Artists’ Palettes”. Here, Daniel Spoerri fixes the workbenches of artist friends – such as Erik Dietman or Katharina Duwen – as “snare pictures”. I am impressed by the way in which this offers us an insight into the individual working situation of the artists and creates, in a certain sense, a portrait made out of objects. In the artist’s palette for Grégoire Müller we see the workbench of a painter, covered with tubes and bottles of turpentine.

5. Se laisser manger la laine sur le dos, 1965

One of my favourite works in the exhibition is this “word snare”: In this series, Daniel Spoerri literally produces pictures of idioms and expressions with the help of objects. In concrete terms, here we can see the French idiom “Se laisser manger la laine sur le dos” – literally “to allow the wool to be eaten from one’s back” – translated as an assemblage. There is a German idiom with a similar meaning: to allow the butter to be taken from the bread. For me, this work shows the extent to which figures of speech can vary between languages while still being able to mean the same thing.

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