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The state of the things. The object in art from 1960 to the present day

The state of the things. The object in art from 1960 to the present day


8 October 2004 - 9 January 2005
Exhibition halls on the ground and first floor
Tuesdays to Sundays (including holidays), from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
MARCO, Museo de Arte Contemporánea de Vigo / ARTIUM, Centro–Museo Vasco de Arte Contemporáneo de Vitoria

Works of art on exhibition

The exhibition is composed of 117 works of art, most of them sculptures, but also paintings, installations, objects, photographs and videoprojections.


  • MARCO, Museo de Arte Contemporánea de Vigo
    (8 th October 2004 - 9 th January 2005)
  • ARTIUM, Centro-Museo Vasco de Arte Contemporáneo de Vitoria
    (2nd February - 22 nd May 2005)


Summary of the exhibition project

The exhibition The State of Things. The object in art from 1960 to the present day was presented in its first version at the Museum of Fine Art in Nantes from the 28th June to the 12th October 2003. It marked the cultural event called "Public Treasures, 20 years of creation in the Regional Funds of Contemporary Art in France", organized by the French Ministry of Culture and curated by Jean Marc Prévost.

One year later, the museums of MARCO in Vigo and ARTIUM in Vitoria are hosting this exhibition. As for MARCO, this is the first time a temporary exhibition occupies both floors in the museum, due to the high number of works of art exhibited and their large size.

The exhibition is composed by 117 works of art from the collections of 17 FRAC (Fonds Régionaux d'Art Contemporain, i.e. Regional Funds of Contemporary Art in France), created in 1983 by the French Ministry of Culture and the regional governments. The FRAC are a network of 24 centres focused on the dissemination and support of contemporary creation, following a policy of cultural decentralization that has proved high success in the acquisition of works of art.

This exhibition presents a selection of these collections that leads us along the evolution of international contemporary art from the beginning of the sixties -when everyday objects were integrated into art discourse- to the present day. Thus, the status of the "object" in art is introduced and analyzed in all its forms and states throughout different artistic movements.

The original project is enriched in MARCO's and ARTIUM's version by the addition of Juan Muñoz and Joan Brossa, two recently deceased Spanish artists, whose works abound in the FRAC collections. On this occasion, their brilliant career will be commemorated in two halls showing diametrically opposed approaches to the object.

Following this method of analysis -a sort of cross section-, objects gradually turn into reflections of contemporary vision right in front of us. They sometimes tell us about the experience of the immediate environment; claim for their individuality and that of their creators; make us think about their role and effect on consumer society; raise questions such as the uselessness of the work of art or the borders between art and design; or become metaphors, symbols or traces of their immediate past and their origins. In short, they operate as a channel for the better understanding of contemporary art.

The exhibition opens with Duchamp's Boîte en Valise (1966), and it obviously could not be otherwise. This work reproduces 83 miniatures of the creator of the readymade, who turned a urinal into a "work of art" when he entitled it Fountain (1917) and presented it at an exhibition. The artist decided to decontextualize and put on a base this everyday object, which became then an artistic object. The result went beyond provocation and laid the foundations of a new concept of artist and work of art, still valid today, claiming that the idea is more important than the product itself.

It has been forty years of piled up, crammed, invented, recycled, manufactured and decomposed objects, manipulated by artists in all the imaginable ways: everyday objects deflected from their roles by Fluxus or provided with a memory by Christian Boltanski; objects rejected after having been used by consumer society and reinvented by the "New Sculpture" in Britain; objects deflected from their roles by Bertrand Lavier or John Armleder; objects inventoried by Claude Closky; objects displayed by Christian Marclay; objects piled up by Daniel Firman; objects magnified by Patrick Tosani; objects coming from ephemeral encounters orchestrated by Gabriel Orozco; and all the other machine-objects, showcase-objects, cynical objects, bandaged objects, etc. This provides an insight of what has been created in art through exhibitions taking place since the birth of contemporary art. In these exhibitions, things swiftly become objects and objects become products, oscillating relentlessly from one to the other, between irony and cynicism, criticism and demonstration, protest and aesthetic fascination.

Fluxus artists (Robert Filliou, Ben) drew inspiration from the Dadaist and Duchampian heritage, decontextualizing everyday objects to produce "poetic and political" images and puns. Later, Pop artists (Richard Hamilton, Andy Warhol) and New Realists (César, Raymond Hains) took an interest in mass consumer goods and incorporated them as integral part of their work of art. By doing so, they intended to establish a direct relationship between reality and the changes taking place in the contemporary world.

After the sixties, Christian Boltanski followed the trail of Conceptual Art and conceived a series of intimate objects full of memories. During the eighties, the "New Sculpture" in Britain (Tony Cragg, Bill Woodrow) picked up the forms of Minimal Art and Conceptual Art to reveal an interest in the extent of consumer society. Richard Artschwager's decontextualizations, or later Bertrand Lavier's, John Armleder's or Sylvie Fleury's are a way to critically trace the history of contemporary sculpture and painting.

During the nineties, Claude Closky worked with language and object, taking and staging anodyne "things", while Fabrice Hybert's POFs (Prototypes d'objects en fonctionnnement, i.e. prototypes of working objects) question the systems of art production and spreading. Objects can also take part in a more narrative field -as in Xavier Veilhan's works- or become a product, as Jean-Luc Moulène shows in his creations. Gabriel Orozco, for his part, questions the concepts of "crafts" and "industrial product", while L'Atelier Van Lieshout, among others, reflects on the status of a work of art, its role and its representation, so as to raise again the question of the economy of object and its desires.

The addition of objects to the work of art, the artistic object and its role, art and consumer society... These issues and many more are raised by The State of Things, an exhibition of the peculiar voyage of objects and their creators through the history of contemporary art.



    Alain Séchas
    Allan McCollum
    Andy Warhol
    Anne Gardiner
    Atelier Van Lieshout
    Bertrand Lavier
    Bill Culbert
    Bill Woodrow
    Bruno Peinado
    Cady Noland
    Céleste Boursier–Mougenot
    Christian Boltanski
    Christian Marclay
    Claude Closky
    Daniel Firman
    Eric Duyckaerts
    Erik Dietman
    Erwin Wurm
    Étienne Bossut
    Fabrice Hybert
    Franz West
    Gabriel Orozco
    George Brecht
    Hans Haacke
    Hubert Duprat
    Jean–Luc Moulène
    Jean–Luc Vilmouth
    Jean–Michel Sanejouand
    Jean–Pierre Raynaud
    Joan Brossa
    Joe Scanlan
    John M. Armleder
    Juan Muñoz
    Marcel Broodthaers
    Marcel Duchamp
    Martin Tupper
    Michael Craig–Martin
    Mimmo Rotella
    Pascal Kern
    Patrick Saytour 
    Patrick Tosani
    Peter Fischli & David Weiss
    Philippe Mayaux
    Philippe Parreno
    Philippe Ramette
    Présence Panchounette
    Raymond Hains
    Richard Artschwager
    Richard Baquié
    Richard Hamilton
    Robert Filliou
    Roman Signer 
    Sylvie Fleury
    Thomas Huber
    Thomas Schütte
    Tobias Rehberger
    Tony Cragg
    Wim Delvoye
    Xavier Veilhan

Curatorial text

Text by the directors

"The exhibition THE STATE OF THINGS. The object in art from 1960 to the present day. Collections of the Regional Funds of Contemporary Art in France, presented now at MARCO, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Vigo, and ARTIUM, Centro-Museo Vasco de Arte Contemporáneo de Vitoria-Gasteiz, is an exhibition that will mark us, filling us with renewed energy and the best of intentions towards contemporary art. This was at least the spellbinding sensation we all got when we visited in the summer of 2003 its first version presented at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Nantes. On that occasion, the exhibition was curated by Jean Marc Prévost and was part of the many events organized by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication to commemorate the twenty years of the creation of the FRAC, Fonds Régionaux d'Art Contemporain (Regional Funds of Contemporary Art).

This commemoration was one of the reasons for our satisfaction. It is not everyday that one has the opportunity to assist to the coming-out of so emblematic a cultural event at national level, helping us to become reconciled with our profession and with cultural management. These 24 FRAC were launched in 1983 thanks to the joint effort of the French Ministry of Culture and the regional governments, and in our opinion this was one of the most original and best focused European cultural proposals.

The targets of their foundation were mainly two: the establishment of a network of centres to disseminate and support contemporary creation, by means of the acquisition and protection of works of art, and the strengthening of a real policy of cultural decentralization. The results are clear: not only has it resulted in the creation of many collections with more than 15,000 works of international artists -some of them specialized in art and its relationship with architecture, cinema or design-, but these collections have a high artistic and economic value as well -due to the good criteria of acquisition. And it cannot be forgotten that artists from different generations and countries have been wholeheartedly supported by the FRAC, which have also undertaken the invaluable and hard task to raise public awareness of contemporary art through exhibitions and educational activities. All in all, they set the perfect example of how to successfully approach political projects in the cultural field at national level.

One of the other reasons for our enthusiasm for this event was the high quality of the works of art exhibited -a small selection of works of art from the collections of the FRAC- which, in an excellent installation, narrated the history of the representation of the object in contemporary art from the sixties to the present day. Sculptures, installations, videos, paintings and photographs, from the pioneer Marcel Duchamp, through Fluxus, Pop and Conceptual artists to New Sculpture in Britain or New Realists, showed us how everyday objects have settled forever into contemporary art discourse. And we say "narrate" because we could feel objects talking to us.

We were finally captivated by the freshness of the exhibition and its undeniable sense of humour. The decontextualization of an everyday object from its role and environment raises inevitably misinterpretations and paradoxes that may get a smile out of us. This, together with the addition of the said object to a work of art and its later exhibition in a museum, will most probably turn the misinterpretation into discourse and the paradox into metaphor. That is the power of art."

Carlota Álvarez Basso, Director of MARCO, and Javier González de Durana, Director of ARTIUM