Braco Dimitrijevic

Triptychos Post Historicus: Repeated Secret


Not on display

Braco Dimitrijevic born 1948
Wooden cabinet, oil paint on canvas and pumpkin
Object: 2020 × 915 × 700 mm
Presented by the artist 1985

Catalogue entry

Braco Dimitrijevic born 1948

T04122 Triptychos Post Historicus : Repeated Secret 1978-85

Painted wardrobe, pumpkin and framed oil painting, ‘The Little Peasant' by Amedeo Modigliani (N05269); wardrobe 1820 x 915 x 700 (71 5/8 x 36 x 27 5/8), dimensions of pumpkin variable, N05269 1152 x 807 (43 3/8 x 31 3/4) including frame; overall size height variable x 915 x 700 (height variable x 36 x 27 5/8)
Not inscribed
Presented by the artist 1985
Exh: Braco Dimitrijevic, Triptychos Post Historicus, Tate Gallery, Sept.-Oct. 1985 (no number)
Lit: Sarah Kent, ‘Tate Live', Time Out, 3-9 Oct. 1985, p.33; Tate Gallery Report 1984-6, 1986 pp.90-1 repr. in col; entries on Dimitrijevic T03687-8 in Tate Gallery Acquisitions 1982-4, 1986, pp.148-150; Nena Dimitrijevic, ‘Alice in Culturescapes', Flash Art, no. 129, Summer 1986, p.53 repr; James Lees-Milne, ‘Thin end of the Wedge', Times, 15 July 1987, p.17; ‘£2.5m Modigliani props open a cupboard, display at Tate dismays art lover', Times, 15 July 1987, p.1 repr; ‘Recipe for Success' Evening News, 22 July 1987, p.19 repr.; J.R.W. Lingard, Thin End of Wedge', Times, 22 July 1987, p.13; Sir Terence Conran, Times, 22 July 1987, p.13.

Unless otherwise indicated, this entry is based on a series of interviews between the artist and the compiler (1986-88). It has been approved by the artist.

This work consists of the following items; a wardrobe which Braco Dimitrijevic bought in London and which was painted for him by a friend, Sarah Moore; Modigliani's painting, ‘The Little Peasant', dated 1919 in Dimitrijevic's subtitle but c. 1918 in the Tate Gallery's catalogue (see Ronald Alley The Tate Gallery's Catalogue of Modern Art, Other Than Works by British Artists, 1981) which, when used as part of T04122, is firmly attached by its frame to the interior of the wardrobe; and a large pumpkin or melon. The choice of fruit is subject to availability and although when planning the work in 1985, Dimitrijevic first stipulated that a melon should be used, he preferred to use a pumpkin when it was first exhibited. If a pumpkin is used, he prefers the variety that are oval and a pale orange or pink colour. Only yellow melons may be used. When the work is displayed, the fruit must be placed on the top left hand side of the wardrobe, above the painting, which is attached to the wardrobe in such a way that it appears to emerge from it. The pumpkin or melon may be replaced if it deteriorates during exhibition; a fresh example is used for each display.

T04122 was first constructed for display at the Tate in 1985 with five other Triptychos works, each incorporating works by other artists. Four of these - by Turner, Derain, Sisley and Fantin-Latour were from the Gallery's collection and the fifth was a drawing by Malevich borrowed from a private collection (for details, see the exhibition leaflet).

While two of these Triptychos had previously been set up in the gallery in 1982 (see entry for T03687, listed) four, including T04122, were installed for the first time during the exhibition. The artist visited the gallery earlier in the year and looked through the photographic files before selecting works from the collection for use in the display.

T04122 belongs to an extended series of three-dimensional tripartite still-lifes, begun in 1976. Each ‘Triptychos' work combines an original work of art (an old or modern master, generally borrowed from a museum collection but sometimes from a private lender), an everyday artefact, (coats, pianos, bicycles and walking-sticks have been used in other works), and an arrangement of fruit and/or vegetables. All these works carry subtitles which give details of each of the three parts: in this case, ‘Part One: "Little Peasant" Amedeo Modigliani, 1919"' ‘Part Two: wardrobe painted by Sarah Moore', ‘Part Three: Pumpkin'.

Dimitrijevic coined the title ‘Triptychos Post-Historicus' for the series to suggest a state which might transcend the hierarchies and value systems of the dominant recorded culture, and a brief history of the ‘Triptychos' series is given in Tate Gallery Acquisitions 1982-4, which contains entries on two earlier works from the series. More recent examples were exhibited in a one-man exhibition held at the Wilhelm-Hack-Museum, Ludwigshafen (Aug.-Sept. 1987) and the accompanying publication contains a chronology and bibliography of the series (Lida von Mengden (ed.), Braco Dimitrijevic, Für For Malewitsch Mondrian, Einstein, Ludwigshafen 1987).

The two Triptychos works which relate most closely to T04122, in that both also incorporated wardrobes, were made in Australia and France respectively. The Australian work, ‘Triptychos Post Historicus or Gold Diggers Receiving a Letter from Home' (repr. Sandy Nairne, State of the Art, 1987, fig.172) was made for the 1986 Sydney Biennale and is listed in the catalogue as ‘Triptychos Post Historicus, 1986 (To be completed in Sydney with a painting courtesy of the Art Gallery of New South Wales)' (p.110, no number). It consisted of a Victorian wardrobe surmounted by a pumpkin. Fixed inside the wardrobe, so that it was only partly visible, was a painting attributed to William Strutt (?1825-1915), who worked for a time in Australia. The ‘Triptychos' are always made with a particular gallery or other exhibition space in mind and Dimitrijevic borrowed this particular painting, ‘Gold Diggers Receiving a Letter from Home', a nineteenth century Australian subject, from the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

The other work most closely resembling T04122 was made for an exhibition at the Galerie de Paris in Paris held in April 1987. Called ‘Triptychos Post Historicus, ou Les Boules de Picabia' (repr. Flash Art, Nov. 1987) it also consisted of a wardrobe, in this case a simple deal one in the style of the 1930's or 1940's, surmounted by a coconut, and partially concealing a large painting by Francis Picabia, ‘Deux Femmes au Pavots' 1942-43 (no repr. traced. The Picabia painting was lent by a private collector). In each of these three related ‘Triptychos', the style of wardrobe appears to relate to the period of the painting it contains. Unlike the Tate's two earlier’Triptychos' (see entries on T03687 and T03688) none of these works exists in a secondary photographic version and each depends on the availability of a particular painting. In T04122 Dimitrijevic symbolically or metaphorically questions the accepted order; high culture, represented by Modigliani's painting, ‘The Little Peasant' (painted in the South of France in c.1918 and presented to the Tate in 1941) is confined to the wardrobe, while a large pumpkin, suggesting peasant life, but also perishable nature, rests on top. The title of the arrangment suggests that the wardrobe holds more than meets the eye, that the painting may be shut away and revealed at will.

In an interview with Judith Aminoff (published in the catalogue for his exhibition at Ludwigshafen) Dimitrijevic referred to the perishable nature of the fruit and vegetables he uses in his triptychos. ‘Since the fruit ... is perishable, it questions the "eternal" status of paintings. The notion of ephemerality is thus introduced as a condition in art. Just as the fruits are obviously rotting during the exhibition so too perhaps are our judgements of these paintings as well as our conditioned systems of values and aesthetics'.

Dimitrijevic has made watercolour studies for most of the Triptychos works. The study for T04122 belongs to him and measures 500 x 350 mm. Like all the watercolours for the Triptychos series it was made on a ready printed form which Dimitrijevic established in 1976 as the correct format for his future watercolours.

In a letter to the compiler (27 January 1988) the artist made the following observations about T04122:

the name of the person in T.P.H. [‘Triptychos'] etc. is important because of its logical continuity [with earlier works such as the ‘Casual Passer-by pieces referred to in earlier Tate Gallery catalogue entries on Dimitrijevic, listed]. It is like having a known or unknown name on... a monument base; the Semantic Structure is the same as in the ‘Dialectic Chapel' [see entry on T03686, Tate Gallery Acquisitions 1982-4] where the name of a passer-by is recorded as well as that of Leonardo'.

In a small catalogue B.D. [Braco Dimitrijevic] T.G. [Tate Gallery] 16 Sept.-6 Oct., ‘85, ‘Wardrobe painted by Sarah Moore', was written as part two. This is quite important because if you probably noticed in one of my catalogues (Karlsruhe 1979) there is a reproduction of a piece with a painting of an unknown painter and therefore I named it ‘Triptychos Historicus'. This is related to the statement - ‘there are no mistakes in history; the whole of history is a mistake', [the artist in Braco Dimitrijevic Arbeiten/Works 1968-1978 exh. cat. Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe 1979 pp. ...]. Similarly in this case, if the name of Sarah Moore would be omitted this would eventually become ‘Triptychos Historicus'. So in this utopian or idealistic state of post history, everything should have equal access to the media or recordings, so selection should be made after, according to the individual criteria.

Just to support my statement about history I always tell people about El Greco. Recently I saw the Spanish exhibition in Paris at the Grand Palais and confirmed to myself how El Greco's example is a perfect illustration of the imperfections of history as a science. He (El Greco) disappeared from history for some three hundred years ago; just because he painted differently from the dominant styles. His works are so brilliant and yet he was punished for his talent. Even today his work looked so different from the others in that show. But what would happen if he was rediscovered some 500 years after he painted? It means that still today we would not know about him, and yet he was lucky to have his works as altar pieces....

This [T04122] is different to the two ‘TPH' [Triptychos Post Historicus] previously acquired by the Tate... which are dependent on a wall. ‘Repeated Secret' is a full round sculpture. As one walks around, the signification of the piece changes with every step. One discovers and rediscovers (painting) again. There is a moment when the painting (by Modigliani) is seen from the side, it becomes similar to the clock, which, seen from the side, shows no time. It's still worth 2.5 million and has no function. Sometimes some works, even when fully exposed to the eye, have no price but affect centuries to come.

Following acquisition, T04122 was included in a routine display of the Collection, where it provoked a letter to The Times, and a front page article. In commenting on this response, the artist suggested that his critics

just made evident how some people approach art. They take it into consideration only if it's worth a few millions. They never consider under what circumstances it was made. For instance to quote one of the letters, the Wardrobe ‘from a third-rate lodging house'. Maybe in its original situation this painting in the first years of its existence (i.e. in Modigliani's studio) was placed in a similar situation, i.e. a ‘third-rate lodging house'. For every person who knows a little about Modigliani's life, it would be easy to imagine that it was more than just a possibility. So for me even then, these works (or their contemporary equivalents) before being hung on white walls behind grand facades are worth 2.5 million or even 3 million. So by their response these people reveal that they don't understand art or creativity in general, which is still so important for any branch of society. Therefore by handling painting, (as in T.P.H.) it is important to remind them that art is something of spiritual nature and then only as such, worth millions. And after all, how was it possible that if Modligiani's or Van Gogh's paintings are worth millions, that they have been constantly in financial difficulties?

In all triptychos I don't intend to reverse a hierarchy (of objects), but to create new harmony. To say that any of the parts of T.P.H. are given priority would not correspond to my views. Everything is 1st, 2nd, 3rd, at same time the universe is made by these three together. Although I must confess that often paintings are a starting point in inspiring a tripychos, just because I like and value art so highly. But this is not always the case. As paintings have their different stories so have wardrobes, shovels or violins (from letter to compiler, cited above).

In 1988 Braco Dimitrijevic completed a new Tryptychos Post Historicus work for the Guggenheim Museum in New York ‘Part one: "Green Violinist" Marc Chagall 1923-24, Part Two: Cello played by Anne Skolnik, Part Three: Pumpkin.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, pp.137-40

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