Asparagus Issue 1

It is only right that Asparagus’s inaugural issue should start with it’s eponymous subject matter. Issue 1 is all about asparagus, specifically, Manet’s asparagus. Below, the links between the artists and artworks profiled in issue 1 are explained in more depth but it is worth saying at this early stage that the long journey of Manet’s asparagus encapsulates what this zine and the expanding Asparagus project, generally, hopes to achieve: a highlighting of the links between practices that are seen as autonomous or distinct; to literally put as many facets of culture as possible into one, undifferentiated space; and to value unexpected connections and the act of following something apparently arbitrary as far as possible.

I hope that this issue, and those to come, start some productive and creative conversations outside of the zine and that it continues to be a source of inspiring dialogue for all those involved.

– Jack

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The charming story of Manet’s Bunch of Asparagus (1880), that it’s buyer Charles Ephrussi, overpaid and was gifted a second, impromptu canvas of a stray stalk that was ‘missing from the bunch’ could be seen as friendly playfulness. It could also be viewed as a challenge to still life to be confined by a single canvas, or by time, or even a single place; it was a gesture with myriad affects and implications. The first bunch of asparagus hangs in the Wallraf-Richartz Museum, the single stalk in the Musee d’Orsay.

Fast forward (just shy of) a century and Manet’s famous bunch is taken up by Hans Haacke as the subject of his Manet-PROJEKT ’74, which charted the turbulent provenance of Bunch of Asparagus. The work was rejected by the Wallraf-Richartz for bringing to light the Nazi career of the painting’s one time owner, and museum patron, Hermann Josef Abs. Abs played a crucial role in stablizing the Reich’s finances and, after the war, had resumed a position of power in Germany, including taking up roles on museum boards and helping the Wallraf-Richartz purchase Bunch of Asparagus. The suppression of the painting’s history and the sociopolitical standing of its owners makes the painting, and references to the vegetable, a symbol of often unseen institutional political agendas.

Unaware of the painting’s temporary rebirth in the mid-1970s, Paloma Proudfoot reapproached the original Ephrussi story for whole suite of recent ceramic works in her series ‘There’s one missing from your bunch’. Proudfoot has utilised her single asparagus stalks explore the romantic notion of the prodigy or outcast and has wrapped these questions in the history and unpredictable idiosyncrasies of her chosen medium, not in a dissimilar manner to Manet’s radical questioning of still life in the 1880s.

Exploring the links between these artists’ practices and more, issue 1 contains:

– ‘Indifferent Objects’. Jack Smurthwaite on Georges Bataille and Edouard Manet’s still lives with Victoria Adam and Bo Matteini

– ‘Asparagus Matters/On the politics of Asapragus’. Sasha Galitzine touching on Hans Haccke’s Manet-PROJEKT ’74 with Mick Rand

– An interview with Paloma Proudfoot

Thanks to all the wonderful contributors.

Issue 1

Hand-finished sleeve with three folded A4 inserts.

Edition of 80.

Print edition £5 (inc UK postage).

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