Six Thousand Years of Receptacles: Tableware through the Ages

An Exhibition and a Catalogue Imagined by Michel Butor

17 May 2017 25 February 2018

To celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the Musée Barbier-Mueller and at its invitation, the late Michel Butor selected one hundred major items, some of them masterpieces, from the museum’s collections. Inspired by these receptacles of diverse provenances, from different eras and cultures, and in various materials, he wrote a poem for each of them, having first categorized them by section, based on the role their shape whispered to him. In Michel Butor’s eyes, these boxes, vases, dishes, situlae and jugs became preparers, presenters or pourers, decorators, preservers or givers.

These receptacles, from the great civilizations of antiquity, the major cultures of Africa, Oceania, the Americas or, to a lesser extent, Asia, will stand side by side with other vessels, also chosen by Michel Butor, and made by contemporary Western artists.

Each piece will reflect the predominant aesthetic criteria in the culture from which it comes and will give information about the ritual or ceremonial context of its use. Celebrated for their unique characteristics or with elements in common, these receptacles provide an opening on the world and an intercultural dialogue. As part of our common heritage, they constitute a temporal and geographical panorama of human creativity.

A sample of Michel Butor’s sections:

With the support of:

Une fondation privée genevoise