Multiples became an international phenomenon in the art world of the 1960s. Artists who questioned the status of art as a luxury commodity embraced multiples―three-dimensional art objects issued in affordable editions―as a more democratic art form. This exhibition explores the pioneering role played by Edition MAT (multiplication d’art transformable), the first series of multiples to be produced and broadly distributed in the post–World War II era.
The Romanian-born Swiss artist Daniel Spoerri (b. 1930) established Edition MAT in Paris in 1959. He solicited artworks from a range of artists and then marketed and sold them through exhibitions across Europe. His aim was to broaden the notion of art and its role in society by producing small-scaled, reasonably priced multiples that encouraged viewer participation through touch or optical vibration. Not only were the works of art multiplied in the sense that they were produced in editions of one hundred, but they also embodied multiplicity in that they could continually take on new forms. Marcel Duchamp’s Rotoreliefs spin to create a hypnotic illusion of spatial recession and projection; Jean Tinguely’s motor-driven constructions shake so rapidly that their forms appear to dissolve; and the pages of Dieter Roth’s unbound, hand-cut books were designed to be reshuffled by the viewer, producing an ever-changing array of abstract compositions. Together these transformable art objects offered rich sensorial encounters, from playful enjoyment to creative engagement and even disorientation.
Multiplied: Edition MAT and the Transformable Work of Art, 1959–1965 brings together for the first time in the United States the entirety of all three collections of Edition MAT, which were released in 1959, 1964, and 1965. Works by this international and cross-generational group of artists reflect the variety of experimental avant-garde practices in the postwar period, including kinetic and Op art, Nouveau Réalisme, Nouvelle Tendance, Zero, Fluxus, and Pop art.
Arranged in three chronological sections, the exhibition follows the distinct phases of Edition MAT, from its inception as a pioneering artistic concept driven by anti-elitist aspirations to a market strategy. Throughout, the suspended position of the multiple―between artwork and commodity, singularity and series, object and participatory experience―is explored as a productive device for Spoerri and his cadre of colleagues to recalibrate the artist–object–viewer relationship within a rapidly expanding consumer culture of production and consumption.