Tapis de Sable

  • 1974
  • Marcel Broodthaers
  • quartz sand, pigments, palm, plastic plant pot & saucer, printed terry cloth
  • (zandtapijt) 337 x 220 cm, (palm in pot) 198 x 160 x 60 cm, (badstof) 107 x 52,4 cm
  • Location not on view.
  • Acquired in 1993
  • Inventory number 1963
  • met steun van / with support of Stichting Promotors Van Abbemuseum

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'Tapis de Sable' by the Belgian artist Marcel Broodthaers consists of two parts. There is a square of pink quartz sand on the floor with a potted palm in the middle of it. Along the side of the carpet, the letters of the alphabet are shown twice in dark brown pigment, with the letters “Y” and “Z” placed more to the centre. A towelling cloth hangs on the wall with a highly simplified depiction of a palm tree on it. The letters “abc” are printed once evenly along the upper edge of the picture and once arbitrarily in the middle.

When the 'Tapis de Sable' is set up, it is an extremely vulnerable work, but at the same time, the work is invulnerable because it can always be made again. After the exhibition, the sand is swept up and the potted palm is put in a different place. What remains is the towelling cloth and an exact description of how the work should be carried out again and what means should be used to do so. It is not important who does it. The important thing is the artist’s idea, not the personal way of executing it. For this reason, 'Tapis de Sable' can be classified as Conceptual Art.

In his work Broodthaers explores three systems which reality can be used to refer to reality: words, images and objects, as well as their interrelationship. The two parts of 'Tapis de Sable' consist of similar elements, but there are also differences. The cloth is two-dimensional and contains the picture of a palm tree. The carpet of sand is three-dimensional and there is a real palm tree on it. The object and the representation are related but they do not coincide entirely and Broodthaers is playing with the concepts of reality and artificiality. The living palm tree is a potted plant, while the picture shows a real palm. Broodthaers tries to break down the pattern of expectations every time and see existing systems in relative terms. He questions the importance of the “artist’s personal signature” and “the authenticity of an artwork”.

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