A photograph from 1959 shows us the start of an artist’s career in the visual arts – Heinz Mack [1931, Lollar/Germany] and Daniel Spoerri [1930, Galati/Romania] in Antwerp, sitting at a table alongside Otto Piene and other followers of the New Realism: Jean Tinguely, Yves Klein, Pol Bury. Surrounded by drinks, food on their plates and ashtrays full of ash and cigarettes, this scene marks the starting point of Daniel Spoerri’s original debut of his innovation in visual arts. The idea of Eat Art which granted him a proper place in the art world. Spoerri would immortalize the celebration by taking a picture at all the parties.

Daniel Spoerri’s „quadri trappola”

Daniel Spoerri became known in the visual arts by his „quadri trappola” – “trapping-pictures”, an assembly where he would gather objects that remained on the table after a feast, turning everything into a picture ready to be exposed on a wall.

The artist would define this paintings-object as “… objects found in random positions, set orderly or disorderly – on tables, in boxes or drawers – and left in their original position. Only the way to display them would change: because the result will be named a picture, and all the objects will be displayed on a vertical plan. An example is that everything that’s left on a table after dinner will be glued to the table top and hanged on the wall”.

To create such installations, the artist used to collect every-day objects, and assemble them on support used in his theme (a table top, a chair, a dish, a box) vertically arranging the whole installation. The visual flow is born by the subtle relationships amongst common objects, and the different aspects of the same object. Spoerri’s forced the public to rethink the meaning and cultural context of displayed objects.

Le petit dejeuner de Kichka, Daniel Spoerri, 1960. © ADAGP Paris 2007


His first trapping-picture – Le petit dejeuner de Kichka – was created in 1960, starting from Kichka, his girlfriend’s breakfast leftover. One year later, this artwork was exhibited in “The Art of Assemblage” at MOMA Museum in New York, who also purchased it. The „trapping-pictures” created by Spoerri were presented at the Palais des Expositions de la Porte de Versailles, part of the Avant-garde Art Festival in Paris, 1960.

From food to Eat Art

The dominant themes of his artwork were food, the act of eating, meal serving, the idea being also transposed in other contexts. Daniel Spoerri opened his first exhibit at the Arturo Schwarz Gallery in Milan, and in the same year, had the show “Der Krämerladen” („The Grocery”) at the Addi Koepcke Gallery in Copenhagen. Here he sold cans bought from the supermarket. Spoerri put his personal signature mark on the cans’ labels next to the inscription “Caution! Artwork”. His first exhibition was followed by the “Der Koffer” („The Suitcase. All New Realists in a Suitcase”) exhibition at the Lauhus Gallery in Köln and “Bewogen Beweging” at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.

Emincé d’Euro, Daniel Spoerri © Private collection


Featuring a very entrepreneurial spirit, Daniel Spoerri created the MAT publishing house foundation (Multiplication d’art Transformable, in 1959, in Paris), an enterprise exclusively producing and selling 3D copies of artworks by Marcel Duchamp, Dieter Roth, Pol Bury, J.R. Soto, Yacov Agam, Jean Tinguely, Victor Vasarely, Christo and others (the first exhibition held by MAT publishing house took place on November-December, 1959 at Edouard Gallery in Paris). With this show, Spoerri introduced, for the first time, the term multiple to attract a larger audience. The ’60s brought a good market for the multiples because of the art market’s considerable development boom, and the growing number of exhibitions and art fairs.

Der Alphornblaser, Daniel Spoerri, 2014 © Private collection


Paris. Hotel Carcassone. Room no. 13

In Paris, Spoerri lived at Carcassonne Hotel on Mouffetard Street, in room 13. On the right of his entrance door was a table painted in blue by his wife Vera (with whom he has married until the end of the ’50s). Having that as a starting point, he drew a map where he numbered and delimited the 80 objects which were sat on that table on October 17th, 1961, at 3.47 pm sharp.

Daniel Spoerri made the objects’ inventory on his work table describing each object linked to his personal memories and also the relationship amongst different objects found on that table similar to a museum’s catalogue. This piece was the foundation for the volume Topographie Anécdotée du Hasard, a “literary type trapping-picture” published in 1962 with the opening of Spoerri Exhibit at the Lawrence Gallery in Paris.

The first version of Topographie… included a 53 pages pamphlet, a folded map and an index (advertising for the show). If initially, Spoerri’s intention was to make fun of the art market fluctuations, the pamphlet was an interesting publication for his friends, who wanted to contribute with their stories for the following editions. The publication became the autobiography of an intellectual generation, sprinkled with their personal anecdotes.

The illustrations for each object on the table were created by Roland Topor. The material offered a real version of Daniel Spoerri’s and his friends’ travels and all their artistic searches, hence the reason why the Topographie… was named by Peter Frank a true “autobiographical force tour”. In 1990, with the occasion of Daniel Spoerri’s Retrospective Exhibition, Georges Pompidou Center in Paris republished the original version of the pamphlet, and in 1995 An Anecdoted Topography of Chance was published. The Re-Anecdoted Version (Atlas Press Publishing House in London) has 365 pages.

Attention! Œuvre d’art, Daniel Spoerri, stamp, 1961 © Private collection


Marinetti’s “Manifesto of futuristic cuisine”, “Les Dîners de Gala” by Salvador Dali (1973), “L’Art de la cuisine” by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1966), and “Topographie Anécdotée du Hasard” by Spoerri are showing that art and food are two interconnected elements with cultural and social references. A good cook is creative and clever, the same way an artist combines different ingredients in his workshop without being guided by certain rules.

The journeys, febrile searches in the workshop, the Topographie… publishing and the insightful conversations with his friends, determined Daniel Spoerri to introduce the “Eat Art” term in 1967, eight years after the feast in Antwerp. He didn’t make a referral to a five-star restaurant cuisine with famous chefs and exotic foods, he only wanted to show the basic principles of the human diet. Through his works, he tried to find answers to questions as Which ingredients are used today to prepare a meal?, Which plants, seeds and cereals are used for the human diet basis? or How many versions of different recipes are known?

Daniel Spoerri in Spoerri Restaurant, Düsseldorf, 1975. © Galleria Multipla, Milano

One year later, in 1968, he opened Spoerri Restaurant in Düsseldorf, starting a long series of banquets, exhibits, artistic and cultural projects with an exotic tint, reminding us that “art goes through the stomach” exactly like love.

Author: Silvia Suciu

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