Marcel Broodthaers: Un Jardin d’Hiver at Hauser and Wirth

‘Un Jardin d’Hiver’ (A Winter Garden) is an incredible installation of works by Marcel Broodthaers at the Hauser and Wirth gallery in London. Hauser and Wirth first displayed ‘Un Jardin d’Hiver’ in Zurich in 1998 and once again this exhibition plays tribute to this artistic master.

Born in Brussels, Belgium, Broodthaers began his career in journalism, film and poetry. However, after spending twenty years in poverty as a struggling poet, he decided to become an artist in 1963, and he went on to not only create some of the most beautiful pieces of art but also redefine the how art could be experienced.

Broodthaers’ work displays a clear love of nature and wildlife, with black and white photographs of his sketches and engravings of various exotic beasts and animals of the heathland. Broodthaers included numbered descriptions of each animal to help viewers not only engage further with the art, but to help them engage further with nature and gain knowledge about the beings that inhabit the magnificent Earth we all share.

Heavily featured in this exhibition are insects and creatures that dwell in the untamed world of the heathland, including various species of bees, beetles and small birds. In glass cabinets there are on display the original engravings and workings of Broodthaers, while around the gallery there are six giant black and white framed photographs of these engravings.

Around the gallery, viewers are completely surrounded by ‘Kentya’ palms, taking viewers on a curious and exotic journey through the jungle and bringing them back to nature, allowing them to appreciate the beauty of the still captured wildlife with the living, breathing wildlife that immerses them. The excessive use of palm trees and plants creates an exhilarating, refreshing atmosphere for the viewers, making them entirely forget that they're in an art gallery in the middle of London!

From birds and tiny insects, viewers jump to foreign exotic lands with Broodthaers’ engravings of exotic birds, camels, and elephants. The animals are shown in their natural habitats of the jungle or the desert, with the detail in them really bringing the photographs to life. Viewers can almost feel the powerful gusts of wind from the wings of a falcon, or hear the rustling of the trees as an elephant plods through the jungle, or they can just see the tip of a camel’s hump on the far side of the wild green forest, where it opens up onto a hot, Persian dessert, the palms becoming a tropical oasis to rest.

Broodthaers designed the scenes of his exhibitions to create disquieting theatrical compositions using domestic objects. He did to this parody traditional museum and gallery spaces by using an assembly of potted palms in reference to the nineteenth century style palm courts, marking a transition between artworks from a private collection to those belonging to a public museum.

In one corner of the gallery space, stands an old television monitor that displays the recording of a surveillance camera. This screen is installed amongst the plants and chairs to mimic the decorative decoy and surveillance that marks common spaces that flicker between public and private. The palms, once exotic symbols of power, by the mid 1970s had become the most banal and clichéd decoration. In another corner sits a rolled-up red carpet, the carpet sits neglected and viewers might miss it. The rug hints at nostalgia and a sense of former glory, now shoved away and forgotten.

Broodthaers created a parody and somewhat mockery of the traditional customs of art, and skillfully disguised it as a beautiful and stimulating experience.

Broodthaers’ exhibitions are absolutely magnificent because not only do they display his incredible artwork, but he completely transforms the space in which they are displayed, creating a whole new piece of scenic artwork. The transformation of the gallery spaces creates a whole new experience and curious world for viewers, who, rather than wander around a bare, four walled room, are taken on a magical journey that throws them into the art and leaves them feeling refreshed and hungry for more.

"Un Jardin d’Hiver" is on at Hauser and Wirth until 18th November 2017.  More information may be found here.