Dieter Roth, Staple Cheese (A Race), 1970

Swiss/Icelandic artist Dieter Roth’s first US gallery exhibition was held at the Eugenia Butler Gallery on La Cienega, where he installed 37 suitcases full of cheese and left them to rot in the summer of 1970.

“Everyone talked about it, it was probably one of the more talked about exhibitions in town. People were a combination of outraged and intrigued by it. My reaction to it was wow,” recalled artist Ed Moses in 2011. “It was very powerful and as I said as you walked along this alley into the gallery, you could smell it from La Cienega and it was a good hundred yards back to the gallery.”

The health department tried to shut the show down, but Butler’s husband, the class action litigator, successfully argued to keep the gallery open on the grounds of the work’s artistic merit. Although the L.A. art community was small at the time, it would prove to be an influential show to all who saw it.

“The Dieter Roth show was just important to see, period, and to see one of the European artists that you admired, to see a work here, and have it be such a memorable and important work,” remembered [Allen] Ruppersberg in 2011. “I think it’s one of the main works that was ever shown here in L.A., period, and certainly is in all the memories of the artists who were there at the time.”

Excerpt: Matt Stromberg, “Art of The Possible: A Reappraisal Of The Eugenia Butler Gallery” (January 7, 2015),


Image: Dieter Roth, Staple Cheese (A Race), 1970, cheese stuffed into 37 suitcases, installation at the Eugenia Butler gallery