Marcel Broodthaers, a Belgian poet and artist, who died in 1976, designed his own gravestone located in Ixelles Cemetery, Brussels. Engraved on both sides the front of the stone reveals that he was born and died on the same day and month; there is speculation that he committed suicide and may have therefore designed his death.
A phrase on the front of the stone, O Mélancolie Aigre Château Des Aigles, (Sour Melancholy Castle Of Eagles) is part of a line from one of Broodthaers’ poems. In 1968, he announced that he was no longer an artist and appointed himself director of his own museum, which he called the Musée d’Art Moderne, Département des Aigles (Museum of Modern Art, Department of Eagles).
The back of the gravestone is a compendium of symbols, and is indicative of Broodthaers’ first solo exhibition in 1964 where he exhibited everyday objects, words, lettering and drawings.
This eclectic mix of symbols is accompanied by letters of the alphabet and the words, Moderato and Allegro which are both music tempos. The phrase Chez Le Droguiste Op Den Hoek appears to be Dutch and translates as, At The Druggist On The Corner.
In 1968 he used thin vacuum-formed plastic signs to create industrial poems with cryptic text and imagery. Academie I was one of those art forms relating geometric shapes to nature.
The clock at the top of the stone differs from similar symbols in that the Roman Numeral XII is outside the clock face. Both hands point to midnight yet one hand is also located outside the clock face.
A bottle, perhaps champagne, is marked with his birth year 1924.
One of his well-known works, Casserole and Closed Mussels, was created from accessible materials and everyday objects including eggshells and mussels. He published a poem on the subject of La Moule in which he described the mussel as a perfect creature which creates the shell which then contains itself.
A tobacco pipe emitting smoke is a reference to a painting, The Treachery of Images, by his friend and famous Surrealist Rene Magritte. It portrays an image of a pipe with the words, This is not a pipe.
The four geometric shapes reflect the 1966 Primary Structures exhibition in New York and Broodthaers’ later pronouncement that there are no primary structures.
And lastly, in the bottom right hand corner is the image of an open book. This reflects his first art object in which he embedded into plaster fifty unsold copies of his book of poems, Pense-Bête.