/ Bio /

Christian Boltanski was born in Paris on September 6, 1944. He is a self-taught artist who became involved with art at the early age of 14. As the son of a Christian mother and a Jewish father, Boltanski bears the traces of the Holocaust in his memory. This appalling event of human history has been a part of his identity-related work, and of the singular tension between life and death of his pieces, where this dichotomy is reflected both in the autobiographic and in the sum of other people’s individual stories. Memory and archive are two of the distinguishing traits of his work. Life’s most ephemeral traces, its most trivial hints – such as information found in a phone directory or the hundreds of family pictures that make up each of the anonymous stories populating the world – constitute the raw material of the work of Boltanski, who uses them as testimonials of life, its singularity and surprisingly, its proximity to the lives of so many others. Between 1969 and 1971, Boltanski devoted himself to reconstruct his childhood through photographs. At the beginning of the 1980s. Boltanski moved from autobiography to collective stories, and began to use photographs of anonymous individuals.

Some of his previous works include:
La chambre ovale (The Oval Room), 1967
L’Homme qui tousse (The Coughing Man), 1969
Essai de reconstitution (Trois tiroirs) [Attempt at Recreation (Three Drawers)], 1970-1971
Vitrine de référence (Vitrine of Reference), 1971
Saynètes comiques (Comic Vignettes), 1974
Composition théâtrale (Theatrical Composition), 1981
Les archives de C.B. (C. Boltanski Archives), 1965-1988, 1989
Réserve (Reserve), 1990


/ Christian Boltanski /

1944 is born in Paris on September 6.

He begins to work on his first figurative paintings. Towards 1967, he will switch to more experimental materials and new media.

His encounter with Jean Le Gac entices him to explore film. They work together for several years.

He holds his first individual exhibition at the Théâtre du Ranelagh (Paris), in which he experiments with rudimentary dolls, films, etc. Typical of this period is his piece La Vie Impossible de Christian Boltanski.

He publishes his first book (Recherche et présentation de tout ce qui reste de mon enfance, 1944-1950). This strongly autobiographic text attests to the nature of his work.

He begins to work in his Vitrines de Référence series.

He holds his first exhibition in the “Individual Mythologies” Section of Documenta 5, in Kassel, Germany.

Boltanski’s art remains chiefly autobiographic until 1974. After that, his series Saynètes Comiques changes the nature of his work and leads him to explore cultural codes and clichés. In it, he introduces different portraits of banality such as honeymoon trips to Venice.

He begins to work on his Compositions, using diverse formats and intervened photographs.

He holds his first Retrospective at the Musée National d’Art Moderne, in Paris. In it, he experiments with other dimensions that expand his work. This exhibition was divided into two sections: an autobiographical section –showcasing his documents and archives –, and a photographic section, comprising large series of photographs.

He begins to work on his Monuments series, consisting in photographs of the faces of anonymous individuals arranged as dimly lighted constellations.

Invited by the Venice Biennale, he intervenes in the area of Palazzo delle Prigione, an ancient jail.

As one of the artists at Documenta 8, held in Kassel, Germany, he shows a piece on the Jewish Holocaust.

He begins to use clothes as material for his work.

He begins to develop his piece Les Suisses Morts (The Dead Swiss), a series in which he makes use of photographs from the obituary pages of Swiss newspapers. He explains his choice of Swiss individuals as follows: “they have no reason – or at least historical reason – to die”. This piece deals with the theme of death in general, and moves away from death in connection with particularly traumatic events such as the Holocaust.

Towards the end of 1990s, Boltanski exhibits his work in Paris, at the Musée d’Art Moderne. It is here that he begins to develop the idea of how to make absence present, i.e., how presence and absence play a role in memory.

He showcases Entre-temps (Meanwhile) at the Yvon Lambert Gallery, in Paris. It is at this point that he revisits the theme of autobiography.

He develops a lengthy exhibition of his Théâtre d’Ombres (Shadow Play) at the Museum of Jewish Art and History, in Paris. He also works in other cities, intervening in historical buildings such as deconsecrated churches. He works on a collaboration basis at opera theaters with lighting designer Jean Kalman and director Andrea Bretz. At the same time, his visual art acquires a more theatrical and narrative tone, and explores the concept of total artwork while focusing on one specific theme: time, memory, mankind, life and death. Chance, one of his most recent works, was presented at the 2011 Venice Biennale.

  • 12.10
    Boltanski Buenos Aires Opening Ceremony

    Friday, October 12, Hotel de los Inmigrantes, 1.30 p.m.

  • .
    Youtube Channel

    You can access all our video records of Migrants, Flying Books and Works in our YouTube Channel. Go to Channel Boltanski Buenos Aires