Marcel Broodthaers - Modern & Contemporary Art: Evening & Day Sale London Thursday, June 27, 2024 | Phillips
  • “All is eggs. The world is an egg. The world is born of the great yolk, the sun. And the belly of a wave is white. A heap of eggshells, the moon. Dust of eggshells the stars. All, dead eggs.”
    —Marcel Broodthaers  

    Bonne Année is a delightful insight into the visionary mind of Marcel Broodthaers. Eight empty eggshells, each uniquely and elegantly broken, are arranged sequentially in two rows across a small linen sheet obscuring the handwritten year below: 1967. We are presented with a paradoxical work of art. Broodthaers celebrates the new year with a delicate yet commonplace and neglected household staple. The passage of time is treated with intriguing irreverence.   


    A poet until aged forty, Belgian artist Broodthaers embarked on a brief yet prolific career as an artist from the early 1960s which provided visual manifestation to his witty and critical poetry. His use of familiar found objects aligned him with the Nouveau Realism movement which sought to transform the contemporary European urban landscape into art. However, Broodthaers stated he closely ‘followed the footprints left in the artistic sands by René Magritte and Marcel Duchamp’.i In his body of work, we recognise an ingenious reimagining of form and object, playful yet provocative engagement with life and relationship between the visual and literary which firmly aligns him within this canon of idiosyncratic innovation which defined the 20th Century avant-garde.   


    Broodthaers sought an alternative to the cold technologies and prolific consumption of the age in favour of a softer, more fundamental visual language. It was in egg and mussel shells, typically discarded for what they contain, which became his signature means of communicating universal and simple truths. Juxtaposing them with found objects, literary prompts and compulsively covering canvases with them, Broodthaers used these minimal forms to reveal an essential organic beauty which opens the viewer beyond what we can use from nature to what nature could reveal to us. Eggs symbolised to Broodthaers the very substance of the universe. The use of which in the present work alludes to the traditional painting materials of the Renaissance where art functioned to communicate a divine truth and beauty. Venerating the naturally hollow and sculptural quality of the eggshells, Broodthaers encourages quiet within the bustle of modern life. Their emptiness serves as an antithesis to consumption and an agent of knowledge which articulates Broodthaers’ artistic and literary practice as the ‘apostle of silence’.ii


    With Bonne Année, Broodthaers invites a moment of pause and reflection in the wake of the year 1967. Prophetically, it would prove of personal significance to the artist; witnessing his first major retrospective at the Palais des Beaux-Arts and the death of Magritte, the father of Belgian Surrealism and paramount influence on Broodthaers. The work represents the cusp of a new artistic era. It speaks to the playful imagination which had enriched the visual language of his nation and with a poetically formal quality which renders Broodthaers a unique voice in early Minimalist and conceptual practice. For the contemporary viewer, Bonne Année resonates as a curious, nostalgic and perpetually anticipatory work of art, leaving us with a sentiment to remain open, grounded and innovative in the face of the time.   



    i Marge Goldwater, Michael Compton, Douglas Crimp, Marcel Broodthaers, New York, 1989, p. 32.

    ii Marge Goldwater, Michael Compton, Douglas Crimp, Marcel Broodthaers, New York, 1989, p. 32.

    • Provenance

      Galerie Cogeime, Brussels
      Galerie Christine and Isy Brachot, Brussels
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Literature

      Isy Brachot, ed., Marcel Broodthaers: oeuvres 1963-1975, Brussels, 1990, p. 199 (illustrated, p. 123)


Bonne Année 1967

signed with the artist's initials and titled 'M.B. Bonne Année 1967' on the reverse
eggshells and ink on linen
21.5 x 27 cm (8 1/2 x 10 5/8 in.)
Executed in 1966-1967, this work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Galerie Christine and Isy Brachot.

We are grateful for Marie-Puck Broodthaers’ assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.

Full Cataloguing

£100,000 - 150,000 ‡♠

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Louise Simpson
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Modern & Contemporary Art: Evening & Day Sale

London Auction 27 June 2024