Christian Boltanski was born in 1944 in Paris. He currently lives and works in Malakoff...
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Christian Boltanski
Christian Boltanski
Portrait of Christian Boltanski. Photo credit: Didier Plowy
Marian Goodman Gallery is pleased to continue our artist-centric newsletter IN FOCUS, where we delve deeply into one artist on the MGG roster at a time. Aiming to show a fuller picture of the breadth of our artists' careers, we will feature our favorite stories, podcasts, interviews, artists’ writings and videos from the archive, as well as new and upcoming projects.

Christian Boltanski (b. 1944, Paris, France) currently lives and works in Malakoff, a suburb near Paris. Born near the end of World War II to a Jewish father and a Catholic mother, Boltanski was raised on stories of the Holocaust, resulting in trauma that would continually impact him and his practice. At the age of 12, Boltanski withdrew from his formal education, and, following his family’s advice, he started drawing, later turning to painting and experimental filmmaking. In the 1970s, however, Boltanski began to develop a more conceptual practice by taking found photographs and objects such as rusted tin boxes and lightbulbs and using them as a means to explore the transitory nature of human life. Recently, Boltanski, in his conceptual practice, has shifted his exploration toward mythology by creating stories around his immersive works for people to contemplate and remember. Many of Boltanski’s works are preoccupied with memory, mortality, and destiny—themes that adopt new meaning in connection with the events we are living through. It is his exploration of these universal themes that makes Boltanski one of the most prominent artists in France.

Notably, Boltanski was recognized for his work in sculpture for the Japan Art Association’s Praemium Imperiale Awards in 2006. His work continues to be the subject of major international exhibitions, particularly in Japan and China, in Europe, and in South America.

Today, follow along as we examine the many existential questions embedded in Boltanski’s practice:

To Boltanski’s heartbeat. It is the first heartbeat recorded and collected by the artist for his ongoing project, Les Archives du Coeur. This project, composed of approximately 80,000 heartbeats, is permanently installed at Teshima Island as part of the Benesse Art Site Naoshima, Japan. The work serves as the public database of all the heartbeats collected by Boltanski from around the world since 2008, inviting visitors to find the heartbeats of those they once knew.
To the sound of small bells from Boltanski’s video installation, Animitas (Chile), as featured at Marian Goodman Gallery London in 2018. This video, named after the original 2014 installation at the Atacama Desert of Chile, is an audiovisual recording of several hundred small, bronze Japanese bells on steel stems. In the years following, Boltanski created variations of Animitas in several locations: Québec, Canada; Teshima Island, Japan; and the Dead Sea, Israel. Each variation results in a sanctuary for self-contemplation. In an upcoming exhibition by Boltanski at The Noguchi Museum, opening 5 May, visitors are invited to contemplate and reflect on this work.

Image: Les Archives du Coeur, 2010, Teshima Island, Japan

A 2020 interview with Boltanski by Alexis Dahan for The Brooklyn Rail. They discuss Boltanski’s recent retrospective at the Centre Pompidou, Faire son temps (Life in the making). In Boltanski’s view, the retrospective, which spanned five decades of his career, is actually the mark of a new journey in his practice.
A 2018 interview with Boltanski by Peter Aspden for The Financial Times. Here, Boltanski talks about the works in Ephémères, a solo exhibition of sculptural and video installations held at Marian Goodman Gallery London. For Boltanski, the works featured in the exhibition, which addressed themes surrounding the collective imagination and the fragility of memory, are rooted in his own history.

Image: No Man’s Land, 2010, Park Avenue Armory, New York

A 2021 exhibition walkthrough of Après, our most recent solo exhibition by Boltanski at Galerie Marian Goodman. In this show, Boltanski gave free rein to his interest in a form of total art in which the works developed their own scenography. Articulated in a coherent whole, they stimulated all the vectors of perception, whether direct or deeper in the private world of memory.
A 2021 interview with Boltanski at Galerie Marian Goodman, where he spoke of the prevailing theme behind Après: Death in the current pandemic. “A very horrible yet interesting thing has occurred since Covid is here, which is, that death is no longer hidden. Death used to be completely denied by us, and nowadays, because of this disease, we are talking about death as something that is around us and that is present.”

Image: Subliminal, 2020, Galerie Marian Goodman
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