Daniel Spoerri

Prose Poems


Not on display

Daniel Spoerri born 1930
Original title
Poèmes en prose
Glass, paper, ceramic, metal and plastic on wood
Unconfirmed: 690 × 542 × 361 mm
Purchased 1982

Display caption

Spoerri called his relief works tableaux-pièges (picture-traps), because they involved fixing or 'snaring' objects found in chance positions on table tops or in drawers. These were hung vertically on a wall, like conventional pictures, and were intended to create visual discomfort in the viewer. In this work, the remains of a meal are preserved on a wooden board that the artist used as a table while living in a small room in a Paris hotel. The title derives from the book by the Swiss poet Robert Walser (Dichtungen in Prosa, or 'Poems in Prose').

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Daniel Spoerri born 1930

T03382 Prose Poems 1959-60

Assemblage of objects on wooden board 690 x 542 x 361 (27 1/8 x 21 3/8 x 14 1/4)
Inscribed ‘Tableau Piège: | "Poèmes en Prose | sur Fond Vasarely" | Daniel Spoerri | Nov .60' on back of board bottom centre
Purchased from Galerie Bonnier, Geneva (Grant-in-Aid) 1982
Prov: Arturo Schwarz, Milan, who sold it to Galerie Bonnier, Geneva early 1980s
Exh: Daniel Spoerri, Galleria Schwarz, Milan, March 1961 (no number, as ‘Poème en Prose'); Mouvement Dada 1916-1966: Berlin, Genève, Madrid, New York, Zürich: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow: Arman, Raysse, Spoerri, Dufrêne, Rotella, Villeglé, Galleria Schwarz, Milan, Feb. 1966 (34, repr., as ‘Poème en Prose'); Daniel Spoerri: Catalogue Anecdote de Seize Oeuvres de l'Artiste de 1960 à 1964, Galerie Bonnier, Geneva, Sept.-Oct. 1981 (5 as ‘Poèmes en Prose')
Lit: Alain Jouffroy, ‘The Snare-Pictures of Daniel Spoerri' in Daniel Spoerri, exh. cat., Galleria Schwarz, Milan 1961, p.8; Daniel Spoerri, ‘Development of the Snare-Picture' in Daniel Spoerri, exh. cat., Gallery Bruno Bischofberger, Zürich 1966, pp.4-14; Daniel Spoerri, ‘Trap Pictures', Zero 1,2,3, Cologne and Massachusetts 1973, p.217; Daniel Spoerri, ‘Interview with Jan Runnquist' in Daniel Spoerri, exh. cat., Galerie Bonnier, Geneva 1981, pp.3-32

T03382 is one of about twenty tableaux-pièges (literally, ‘picture traps') which Spoerri made in 1960 and early 1961 in his small room in the Hôtel de Carcassonne, 23 rue Mouffetard in Paris. In a letter to the Tate Gallery dated 18 June 1988, Spoerri wrote: the location was Hôtel Carcassonne, 23 rue Mouffetard, Paris 5ième, a tiny hotel room, ‘au mois' where I had no table to eat [from], and so I took bits of hardboard and in this case the back of [a] Vasarely multiple.

His entire output was bought by Arturo Schwarz who exhibited the tableaux-pièges at his gallery in Milan in March 1961; this was Spoerri's first one-man exhibition. Prior to this a number were shown at the second Festival d'Art d'Avant-Garde at the Palais des Expositions, Porte de Versailles in November 1960. Explaining the idea behind the picture trap, Spoerri later wrote in the 1966 Bischofberger catalogue:

Objects found in chance positions, in order or disorder (on tables, in boxes, drawers etc.) are fixed (‘snared') as they are. Only the plane is changed: since the result is called a picture, what was horizontal becomes vertical. Example: remains of a meal are fixed to the table at which the meal was consumed, and the table hung on the wall (p.4).

The wooden board to which the objects are glued in T03382 came from a box or case containing a signed multiple by Vasarely, part of l'Edition MAT (Multiplication d'Art Transformable) which Spoerri commissioned from various kinetic artists and exhibited at the Galerie Edouard Loeb, Paris in November 1959. The copy of Dichtungen in Prosa by the Swiss poet Robert Walser was given to Spoerri by his uncle Theophile Spoerri, rector of the University of Zürich. It is still one of the artist's favourite books. Spoerri has always insisted that the principal theme of his picture traps is, paradoxically, implied movement. In a statement published in the avant-garde magazine Zero 3 in 1961 he wrote:

My trap pictures should create discomfort, because i hate stagnations. i hate fixations. i like the contrast provoked by fixating objects, to extract objects from the flow of constant changes and from their perennial possibilities of movement; and this despite my love for change and movement. movement will lead to stagnation. stagnation, fixation, death should provoke change and life, or so i like to believe.

He also says that the tableaux-pièges are informed by the Sixties belief that ‘art is life': ‘My statement is extreme and precise - perhaps the most precise' (conversation with Marlee Robinson, 7 November 1983).

This entry has been approved by the artist.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, pp.565-6

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