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During his twelve-year career as a visual artist, Marcel Broodthaers produced an astonishing variety of works in a wide range of media, including enigmatic objects made of egg - and mussel shells, elegant typographic paintings, films, pints, photographs, and ephemeral, provocative installations. Heir to fellow Belgian René Magritte, his works have also been linked to Pop Art, Conceptualism, Dada, and Minimalism. While extremely rich in allusion, Broodthaers' s work is ultimately enigmatic and his meaning elusive. In effect, rather than providing answers, Broodthaers's work raises questions, often about the very nature of art and the institutions that protect and foster it.

Born in Brussels in 1924, Broodthaers was actively involved in the intellectual life of the city, and by 1960 had published two books of poetry, produced a film, and was writing and lecturing on art. His career as a visual artist began in 1964 when he embedded in plaster fifty copies of his last volume of poems, Pense Bete. Early works prompted by his response to American Pop artists such as Jim Dine and George Segal, were everyday objects that Broodthaers altered, often by signing his name to them. His later series of fictional museum installations explored the ways in which context affects the meaning of objects. Many of Broodthaers' later individual works, such as his typographic paintings and plastic plaques, explore the problematic nature of language and the sometimes arbitrary conventions upon which it rests.