365 Days of Art: June 11 – Dieter Roth Exhibition Receives Humorous Review

Dieter Roth, Staple Cheese (A Race), 1970

June 11, 1970

Dieter Roth’s first US exhibition receives a tongue-in-cheek review in the International Herald Tribune, which says that the gallery owner “will sell it to anyone with $21,000 and a bad cold”.

The reason for the bad cold is that the exhibition stinks. Literally stinks. Inspired by an artist whose work Roth thinks is “cheesy”, the show features 37 suitcases of all sizes and models which are filled with cheese. One suitcase is opened every day, to expose the unwrapped cheese. In Roth’s words:

They stood there shiny and beautiful–only gradually becoming disgusting. First juice started oozing out, then the maggots came, and then, of course, flies started laying their eggs.”

Oh yes, speaking of that–the health department gets wind of it (quite literally, as all accounts state how much the air reeked) and serves a summons on the gallery owner for permitting “the breeding or harboring of flies.”

Besides the suitcases, a “cheese race” is run by pressing slabs of cheese onto the walls, and allowing them to slide down, with the goal of crossing a “finish line” at the bottom. Unfortunately for the betting crowd, most cheeses dry out and stick to the wall before completing the race, though.

Some critics are amused: “Anyhow we have a chance to test the idea that art gets better as it gets older. Pure burlesque.” writes William Wilson in the LA Times. To no one’s surprise, no pieces from the exhibition sell.

Many years later, the gallery owner’s husband throws the suitcases away in the desert. I’m guessing they still stunk!

Image credit: Staple Cheese, A Race, 1970, Dieter Roth. Cheese stuffed into over 37 suitcases. Image courtesy of Eugenia P. Butler Estate Copyright Notice: © Eugenia P. Butler Estate.