The Ideas, Identity and Art of Daniel Spoerri

Contingencies and Encounters of an ‘Artistic Animator’

by Leda Cempellin (South Dakota State University)

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"A much-needed biography in English of Daniel Spoerri, Leda Cempellin’s monograph has the great merit to consider this artist’s profound and perspicaciously humorous work on its own terms, beyond its sole classification within Nouveau Réalisme. At the same time, Cempellin’s attentive study locates Spoerri’s ability to continually refuel his artistic curiosity in his and his generation’s propensity to ongoing collaborations and cooperation. A nomadic artist, Spoerri finds his “territory” over and over again in his work with objects, his passion for the anecdotal, and last but not least in his creative bonds with both old and new friends. Underscoring the continuity and interconnectedness in Spoerri’s eclectic art, of which storytelling constitutes the fabric, as Cempellin argues, the book shows how Spoerri never tires of approaching the future both playfully and with an open mind in his work, while always remembering the past with acumen, fondness, and care."

Cecilia Novero,
University of Otago, New Zealand

"The Ideas, Identity and Art of Daniel Spoerri offers Anglophone readers fresh insights into the genesis of Spoerri's important work and illuminates fascinating intellectual exchanges between artists, curators, and other key figures in the European art world from the late 1950s to the present. Cempellin navigates sources in many languages on the multilingual artist, drawing on little-known archival materials and interviews to present key thematic elements in Spoerri's oeuvre. Through reference to projects such as Spoerri's Fluxus works, Eat Art, and Sentimental Museums, the artist's striking inventiveness and intellectual rigor come vividly to the fore."

Jill Carrick,
Carleton University, Canada

The term “artistic animator” is inspired by the definition “Kunstanimator” given to Spoerri by his longstanding friend Karl Gerstner during an interview with Katerina Vatsella in 1995. Wherever he went, Spoerri was capable of inspiring others to make art, and at the same time he absorbed, interiorized and transformed ideas from others. His fluctuating memberships during late Modernism (Zero, Nouveau Réalisme, Fluxus, Mail Art) explain why some areas of this work have not yet received their due attention and their connection to the whole picture has often eluded scholarly inquiry. Beyond his tableaux-pièges, which gave him immediate notoriety through an early purchase by the MoMA, Spoerri discovered a new way to approach the multiples in sculpture (Edition MAT), he transformed his trap pictures into an experimental narrative form (Topographie Anécdotée du Hasard), he initiated the Eat Art movement, he tested an innovative curatorial approach (the Musée Sentimental and the Giardino). Despite constant interruptions due to his semi-nomadic lifestyle, this oeuvre presents an extraordinary coherence, where none of these ventures can be properly understood without considering all the others. This is the first monograph entirely devoted to Daniel Spoerri in the United States to date. With an introduction by Barbara Räderscheidt.

Chapter 1. From theater to the visual arts: Spoerri’s debut into the art world through the Edition MAT>
Chapter 2. Under the Fluxus umbrella: building a collective identity
Chapter 3: The tableau-piège as a spatio-temporal collage of chance
Chapter 3. Eat Art: beyond food
Chapter 5. Daniel Spoerri’s localisms: the Musée Sentimental
Chapter 6. Between life and death are the works of memory: Inside Il Giardino

Leda Cempellin (PhD Università di Parma, Italy, 2004) is currently Associate Professor of Art History in the School of Design and Coordinator of Museum Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences at South Dakota State University (Professor effective fall 2017). She authored a book on American Photorealism (2004) and monographs on Don Eddy (2000) and Leigh Behnke (2005). Since 2013, she is US Correspondent for the Italian art magazine Juliet, where she has been interviewing renowned personalities in the art world. Her extensive publication record addresses issues of Modern and Contemporary Art History and the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, often with interdisciplinary approach. In 2013 she has interviewed Spoerri in person at his Giardino in Seggiano: a portion of the interview has been published in the GiardinoHeft, in occasion of the exhibition Il Giardino di Daniel Spoerri at Forum Kunst Rottweil and Seggiano (Sept. 7 –Oct. 27, 2013). Cempellin has presented aspects of this artist’s oeuvre in several conferences, including the European Studies Conference (2012, 2013, 2014), the Southeastern College Art Conference (2014 and 2015), and the annual conference of the College Art Association (2017).

Art History, Modernism, Spoerri, artist, encounter, trap, chance, food, museum, Fluxus, neo-Dadaism, Zero, Nouveau réalisme, evolution, variation, authorship, sculpture garden, artistic identity

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Bibliographic Information

Book Title

The Ideas, Identity and Art of Daniel Spoerri

Book Subtitle

Contingencies and Encounters of an ‘Artistic Animator’





Number of pages


Physical size

236mm x 160mm


81 B&W

Publication date

June 2017