Un coup de dés (A Throw of the Dice) is the title of an exhibition in which possible coincidental cross-links, affinities and mutual influences among a number of artists from the Van Abbemuseum’s collection is the central theme. The exhibition’s title is derived from a poem written in 1897 by the French proto-modernist and symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé.
He was admired by many artists – not only fellow poets and writers, but also composers and painters. The poem “Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard” (A throw of the dice will never abolish chance) is a remarkably modern, typographical poem that continues to inspire many artists to this day.
Artists admire each other, they borrow from each other, they ‘crib’ from each other, or they make related work without even realising it. Likewise, in the Van Abbemuseum collection similarities between artists and works exist that cannot be directly traced to art-historic based connections, but which have a more eclectic relationship with each other. These are sometimes coincidental, but more often deliberate. This exhibition is mainly about revealing such unsuspected links, unexpected associations and strange affinities between Marcel Broodthaers, Donald Judd, Robert Barry, Jan Vercruysse, Rodney Graham and Douglas Gordon.
Broodthaers and Jan Vercruysse are probably most obviously inspired by Mallarmé, although there are also direct links between Rodney Graham and the poet. Donald Judd and Broodthaers inspired Graham, while he and Vercruysse have collaborated together on a work. Robert Barry and Broodthaers were admirers of each other’s work (Broodthaers once incorporated one of Barry’s works into one of his own), while Douglas Gordon, in his turn, also highly prizes Barry’s work.
Thus there are many cross-links and echoes in the work of these artists which give an unusual, intriguing, yet, at the same time, enlightened look at this aspect of the Museum’s collection. A major element of this is the relationship between image, word and typography. Thus the exhibition contains not only sculptures, illustrations, words and writings, but also typographical works, books and objects.