Cardboard suitcase, paint, and white plaster balls
20.5 x 80 x 52.7 cm /
8 1/8 x 31 1/2 x 20 3/4 in

Enigmatic and confronting, ‘Sculpture’ (1974) masterfully captures Broodthaers’s examination of the relationship between language and art, which informed the artist’s short yet prolific practice. In ‘Sculpture’, white plaster spheres of varying sizes fill a threadbare cardboard suitcase. The spheres reflect the ragged exterior of the suitcase; varying in texture, their uneven surfaces reveal a range of folds and creases, with some seemingly baring the trace of the artist’s hand.


Reminiscent of eggshells, which are often prominent subjects in Broodthaers’s work, there is a certain emptiness and fragility to them. Absent of colour, ‘Sculpture’ is monotone in appearance, calling attention to the physical nature of the work and its material qualities. On top of the suitcase, the word ‘SCULPTURE’ is written in a traditional, capital letter serif font. Through this act of classification, Broodthaers takes an ordinary utilitarian object – a suitcase – and deprives it of its function, redefining it as an art object (in this case, as sculpture).

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Celebrating Basel Basel

In 1974, Marcel Broodthaers set up the exhibition in his Décors series ‘Éloge du Sujet (Eulogy of the Subject)’ at the Kunstmuseum Basel.  These multi-disciplinary, immersive installations often displayed examples of his past work unified with objects borrowed for the occasion.