- Michael Compton
(b Brussels, Jan 28, 1924; d Cologne, Jan 28, 1976).
Belgian painter, sculptor, printmaker, draughtsman, film maker and poet. He lived in poverty for 20 years as a bohemian poet in Brussels; with no artistic training he turned to visual art in 1964 as an ironic gesture, with an exhibition at the Galerie St Laurent in Brussels. He launched himself caustically into the art market with a brief text printed on the invitation: ‘I too wondered if I could not sell something and succeed in life … Finally the idea of inventing something insincere finally crossed my mind and I set to work straightaway’ (quoted in 1980 exh. cat., p. 13). In the 11 years that remained to him he established himself, in more than 70 one-man exhibitions, as an artist of considerable influence in terms not of style or sensibility but of attitude and approach.
Broodthaers regarded his art as a defence of European high cultural traditions in the face of barbarian threats and especially of western commercialism. His strategy allowed him to appropriate techniques and media from Nouveau Réalisme, Pop art, conceptual art and performance art so as to subvert them to his own aims; he emphasized the craftsmanship of his art but without any trace of academic technique or dexterity, as his work was often executed by others. At its most personal his work employed techniques associated with poetry but applied by him not only to words but to images and symbols, with a particular emphasis on irony, metonymy, tautology and synecdoche....