Christian Boltanski

Year of birth, place
1944, Paris, France
Role at the ZKM
in the collection
Christian Boltanski was born in Paris in 1944 and was self-taught as an artist. In 1997 he was awarded the 'Roland-Preis für Kunst im öffentlichen Raum' for his contribution to sculpture in public space. He lives in Malakoff, near Paris.

Starting as a painter, he began to make films in the late 1960s and in the 1970s he made several artists' books. With his first film, »La Vie impossible de Christian Boltanski« (1968), he addressed the themes of memory and remembrance that were to continue to preoccupy him in later work. Boltanski has become especially associated with the treatment of this theme in his many installations. He began by assembling numerous objects found among the possessions of the deceased and, in particular, family photograph albums, which he then processed in various ways. Found photographs of unknown persons or images from old newspapers would be enlarged to the extent that the faces seen in them were abstracted to the edge of legibility. Sometimes series of anonymous portrait photographs would be placed in relation to piled up pieces of clothing or stacked galvanized tin cans, as a cue for memory. Such arrangements of objects are usually displayed in darkened space. The framed photographs are often lit with small office lamps, such illumination sometimes allowing shadows (evocative of ghostly figures) to play across the walls. The atmosphere experienced in Boltanski's installations calls up memories or, at least our share in a collective memory, of cemeteries, columbaria or concentration camps: places where the central reality is death.

Individual exhibitions (selection)

1968 »La Vie impossible de Christian Boltanski«, Cinéma le Ranelagh, Paris
1971 »Aspects de l'avantgarde en France«, Galerie Sonnabend, Paris
1973 »Les Inventaires«, Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden
1988 Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, subsequently at San Francisco Museum of Contemporary Art, San Francisco, The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York
1990 Whitechapel Art Gallery, London
1991 »Inventar«, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg
1994 »Christian Boltanski, Retrospective«, Museet for Samtidskunst, Oslo
1995 »Menschlich«, Kunsthalle Vienna
1996 Neues Museum Weserburg, Bremen; »Christian Boltanski, Advento«, Sto. Domingo de Bonaval, Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea, Santiago de Compostella; »Passie/Passion«, DE PONT Stichting, Tilburg; »Sterblich«, Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt
1997 National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul
Group exhibitions (selection)
1972 documenta V, Kassel
1977 documenta VI, Kassel
1981 »Westkunst«, Museums of the City of Cologne
1986 Biennale di Venezia, Venice; »Chambres d'amis«, Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst, Ghent
1987 documenta VIII, Kassel
1989 Einleuchten, Deichtorhallen, Hamburg
1991 »Die Endlichkeit der Freiheit«, Berlin
1993 »Konstruktion Zitat«, Sprengel Museum Hannover
1995 »Take me (I'm yours)«, Serpentine Gallery, London, subsequently Kunsthalle Nuremberg
1996 »D'une œuvre l'autre«, Musée Royal de Marimont
1997 »Deep Storage«, Haus der Kunst, Munich; »Die Epoche der Moderne«, Martin-Gropius Bau, Berlin 

[David Richardt, 1997]