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Daniel Spoerri

Daniel Spoerri

Daniel Spoerri

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You may not know Daniel Spoerri by name, but you have likely encountered his work. As the founder of the Eat Art movement, Spoerri pioneered a radical new artistic philosophy that fused art and life. For over 60 years, Spoerri has created installations, assemblages, and happenings that challenge our notions of what constitutes a work of art.

From his early Tableau-pièges incorporating found objects to his elaborate banquets and his transformation of his entire home into an artistic space, Spoerri has consistently pushed the boundaries of creative expression. 

This article provides an in-depth look at the life, work, and enduring influence of this avant-garde artist who has made food, meals, and the temporary nature of experience his creative medium. Read on to discover how Daniel Spoerri has made art you can consume.

Daniel Spoerri BIOGRAPHY

Daniel Spoerr
Image Credit: Meer

Early Life and Artistic Beginnings

Daniel Spoerri was born in Romania in 1930. The turmoil of World War II marked his early life. Spoerri lived under Nazi rule and occupation as a child, witnessing the effects of war firsthand. After the war, his family fled communist Romania and settled in Switzerland.

Spoerri studied dance and theatre, discovering an interest in the visual arts. He pursued training at the School of Arts and Crafts in Zurich, where he was exposed to Dadaism and Surrealism. These avant-garde movements greatly influenced Spoerri's artistic style and philosophy.

In the late 1950s, Spoerri emerged as a leader of the Nouveau Réalisme movement. The group aimed to incorporate everyday objects into their art. Spoerri opened his first restaurant, Restaurant Spoerri, in 1959. The restaurant fused his interests in art and food. Spoerri treated meals as artistic happenings and encouraged diners to interact with their food in unconventional ways. The restaurant attracted many notable artists and became a hub of avant-garde activity.

What is Daniel Spoerri known for?

Daniel Spoerr
Image Credit: Arte.it

Daniel Spoerri lived a life devoted to art in all its forms. From his early experiences fleeing Nazi Germany to his later years running a restaurant that was an artistic experience, Spoerri demonstrated a relentless creativity and passion for creative expression. Spoerri helped pioneer the Nouveau Réalisme movement and pushed the boundaries of what could be considered art. 

Career highlights

Daniel Spoerr
Image Credit: Italian Botanical Heritage

Spoerri's Introduction to Dada and Assemblage Art

As an artist in Paris during the 1950s, Daniel Spoerri was greatly influenced by the Dada art movement. He began creating assemblage art, where everyday objects are arranged and attached to a surface. 

In 1959, Spoerri was introduced to the Nouveau Réalisme group, founded by critic Pierre Restany and artist Yves Klein. The group aimed to return art to a "new realism" by using mundane materials and found objects. Spoerri found the group's ideas compelling and began creating assemblage art, which became the hallmark of his work.

In the 1960s, Spoerri continued experimenting with snare pictures and happenings. He produced the manifesto "The Anecdoted Topography of Chance," which mapped all the objects on his desk. Spoerri's work in multiple mediums and his theorization of chance, everyday objects, and temporality established him as a pioneering figure in Nouveau Réalisme and conceptual art.


Founding the Eat Art Movement

In the early 1960s, Spoerri opened Restaurant Spoerri, where he would create snare pictures from meals eaten at the restaurant. Patrons could purchase the snare pictures, thereby owning a unique piece of art containing memories from a particular place and time. Spoerri's innovative take on assemblage art and the purposeful, creative use of found materials resonated with art critics and collectors, gaining him recognition in the European art world.

Spoerri started making "snare pictures," where he would adhere remnants of meals eaten at a table onto tabletops, immortalizing a fleeting moment. 

1960

Kichka's Breakfast I

He prepared and served breakfast to his girlfriend, then glued the meal's remains directly to the table, including the dirty dishes, leftover food, and crumbs. This work is recognized as the first piece of Eat Art.

 

Through his snare-pictures and assemblage art, Spoerri poetically fused art and life. His ability to inspire nostalgia and commemorate fleeting moments made him a pioneer of Nouveau Réalisme. Spoerri's art lives in private collections and museums worldwide, including the Center Pompidou in Paris.


The Restaurant of Art

In 1968, Spoerri opened the Restaurant of Art in Düsseldorf, serving patrons elaborate meals with his snare-picture process. Diners would eat, then watch as their meal remains were adhered to their table, becoming an art piece. The Restaurant of Art expanded Eat Art into an immersive experience, allowing diners to participate in the creative process.

Through Eat Art, Spoerri established food and meals as viable artistic media. His snare pictures and Restaurant of Art fused art and everyday life, challenging conceptions of what constitutes art. Spoerri's radical and playful approach broke from traditional media and helped pioneer the avant-garde, performance, and conceptual art movements of the 20th century. His innovative Eat Art movement secured his place as a seminal figure in contemporary art.

Daniel Spoerri List of Work

Daniel Spoerr
Image Credit: Italian Botanical Heritage

Notable Eat Art Works and Exhibitions

As the founder of the Eat Art movement, Spoerri produced some of the most iconic works defining the direction. Two of his most well-known pieces are Snare-Pictures and Trap Pictures.

Spoerri created snare pictures in the 1950s. He would adhere random objects found in a room onto a board, preserving their positions to capture a moment. The compositions were meant to evoke a sense of chance and randomness. 

Some of Spoerri's most famous Snare-Pictures include:

  • The Bride Stripped by Her Bachelors 

  • Kichka's Breakfast I

Trap pictures employed a similar concept but added an interactive element. Spoerri would adhere objects onto a hinged board that could be opened and closed. Viewers were invited to manipulate the work by opening and closing the board, creating new and unexpected relationships between the objects. It highlighted the role of chance and the viewer in the artistic process.


Exhibitions

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Spoerri began organizing notable group exhibitions to promote the Eat Art movement, including:

1959

First Paris Festival of Free Expression

1960

First solo museum exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam

1962

Festival of Misfits


In the following decades, his work was exhibited internationally at venues such as:

  • Venice Biennale

  • Documenta

  • Center Pompidou

The latter exhibition featured controversial and avant-garde artists like:


Spoerri's Legacy as a Pioneer of Participatory Art

Daniel Spoerri's pioneering work in participatory art has cemented his status as an influential figure in 20th-century art. His "snare pictures," assemblages of objects found in chance arrangements and then fixed in place, invited viewers to engage with the artwork in new ways.

Spoerri’s Snare-Pictures

The snare pictures subvert traditional notions of the passive viewer and static work of art. Spoerri's pieces demand an active, curious viewer piecing together the narrative and meaning behind the assortment of objects. His work paved the way for later interactive and participatory art, which aims to dissolve barriers between art and audience.

The Restaurant as Interactive Artwork

The restaurant allowed Spoerri to extend his snare-picture concept into three dimensions. It represents his vision of art as an ongoing, open-ended process that incorporates chance and the contributions of others. Spoerri's radical experimentation with space, participation, and the relationship between art and everyday life establishes him as a pioneer of participatory art forms. His innovative practices and conceptual frameworks continue influencing interactive art in the 21st century.

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