The construction or creation of an artwork from any materials that come to hand

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  • Mario Merz, 'Igloo, Do We Go Around Houses, or Do Houses Go Around Us?' 1977/85

    Mario Merz
    Igloo, Do We Go Around Houses, or Do Houses Go Around Us? 1977/85
    Metal, stone, glass, putty and electric light
    displayed: 2667 x 5003 x 10261 mm
    Purchased 1990 Fondazione Merz

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  • Jannis Kounellis, 'Untitled' 1960-98

    Jannis Kounellis
    Untitled 1960-98
    Steel panel, two enamel drawings mounted on canvas, sack with coal, three hooks and hanging rod
    displayed: 2000 x 1800 x 460 mm
    ARTIST ROOMS Acquired jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008 Jannis Kounellis

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  • Mario Merz, 'Che Fare?' 1968-73

    Mario Merz
    Che Fare? 1968-73
    Aluminium, wax and neon
    displayed: 125 x 668 x 191 mm, 2.8 kg
    ARTIST ROOMS Acquired jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008 The estate of Mario Merz

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Bricolage is a French wording meaning roughly ‘do-it-yourself’, and it is applied in an art context to artists who use a diverse range of non-traditional art materials.

This approach became popular in the early twentieth century when resources were scarce, and aspects of surrealism, dada and cubism have a bricolage character. But it was not until the early 1960s, with the formation of the Italian movement arte povera, that bricolage took on a political aspect and it was used by artists to bypass the commercialism of the art world. Arte povera artists constructed sculptures out of rubbish in an attempt to devalue the art object and assert the value of the ordinary and everyday.

Since then, artists have continued to make art out of detritus – for example, Tomoko Takahashi constructs vast sculptures of junk found on the streets as a comment on the disposable nature of our culture and society.