Spike Island

Aurélien FromentFröbel Fröbeled


12 July to 14 September 2014



Event type


Fröbel Fröbeled is the culmination of French artist Aurélien Froment’s extensive research into German educationalist Friedrich Fröbel (1782–1852), founder of the first Kindergarten.

Taking his cue from philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Swiss pedagogue Johan Pestalozzi, Fröbel advocated the direct engagement of children with the world via self-directed activity and play. Throughout his career he developed a series of educational toys (balls of wool, wooden geometric shapes, pattern blocks), which he embedded into an open-ended sequence of objects whereby each shape suggests the next. He called them Spielgaben, literally ‘play gifts’. Though Fröbel’s work was influential and the gifts were widely adopted by educationalists, appreciation of the system’s consistency has been diluted and lost over time. This is the first exhibition to present the sequence in its entirety.

Froment’s ambitious new body of work is centered around a set of replicas of ten Fröbel gifts as they were produced and sold by the US based Milton Bradley Company in the late nineteenth century. These are shown alongside carefully staged photographs of the toys ‘in action’, as if they were performing some of the instructions provided in the early handbooks in which they were depicted. Each gift is displayed on a custom designed stand made by Martino Gamper, a leading Italian designer, known for his collaborations with artists. 

The gifts break down into volumes, planes, lines and dots which were used to make models of larger forms – a house, a chair, a flower – while introducing abstract ideas such as unity or interconnectedness. They were not used freely, but in short play sessions that related to three categories: forms of nature (or life), forms of knowledge (or geometry, mathematics and science) and forms of beauty (or art). The exhibition reconsiders the gifts as enigmatic cultural forms, depicting them as products of an idealised world view – that of modernity – but also as objects that suggest freedom and agency.

By displacing the Fröbel gifts within an artistic context, Froment positions the viewer at the heart of an experience, which will remain – in keeping with Fröbel’s principles – one of possibility and potential.

Download the exhibition guide

The exhibition is made in collaboration with the Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver; Villa Arson, Nice; Frac Île-de-France/Le Plateau, Paris and Heidelberger Kunstverein, Germany. The exhibition is supported by the Institut Français and Fluxus.

Aurélien Froment

Aurélien Froment (1976) was born in Angers and currently lives and works in Dublin. He studied at the École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Nantes, from which he graduated in 2000. Recent solo exhibitions include: Une exposition comme les autres, Centre d’art contemporain d’Ivry – le Crédac, Ivry-sur-Seine; Paysages, marines et scènes de genre, Musée départemental de Rochechouart; and 9 Intervals, Pavilion, Leeds (all 2011). Selected group exhibitions include: The Encyclopedic Palace, 55th Biennale di Venezia, Venice (2013); Descriptive Acts, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2012); Our Magic Hour, Yokohama Triennale (2011).

Froment is represented by Marcelle Alix, Paris and Motive Gallery, Brussels (formerly in Amsterdam).

Supported by
  • Contemporary Art Gallery
  • Fluxus
  • Frac Ile de France_Le Plateau
  • Heidelberger Kunstverein
  • Institute francais
  • Villa Arson