Christian Boltanski (b. 1944)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
Christian Boltanski (b. 1944)

Théâtre d'ombres (Theatre of Shadows)

Christian Boltanski (b. 1944)
Théâtre d'ombres (Theatre of Shadows)
16 figurines (metal, cardboard, wire, electrical tape, nails, pins, wood and leaves), 4 light projectors, fan and transformer
dimensions variable
Conceived in 1985 and executed in 1990
Galerie Ghislaine Hussenot, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
D. Semin, T. Garb & D. Kuspit (eds.), Christian Boltanski, Paris, 1988 (another from the series illustrated in colour, pp. 33 and 76-78).
Boltanski: Time, exh. cat., Darmstadt, Matildenhöhe Darmstadt, 2006 (another from the series illustrated in colour, pp. 22 and 37).
T. Shuji & N. Redden, Art of Our Time Volume 2 1999-2008, Tokyo, 2009 (another from the series illustrated, p. 148).
C. Grenier, Christian Boltanski, Paris, 2010 (another from the series illustrated, p. 47-49).
London, Hayward Gallery, Eyes, Lies and Illusions: Drawn from the Werner Nekes Collection, 2004 (another from the series exhibited and illustrated in colour, p. 59).
Paris, Musée d'art et d'histoire du Judaïsme, Christian Boltanski , 2004-2005 (another from the series exhibited).
Nagoya, Institute of Contemporary Art Nagoya, Permanent Collection (another from the series exhibited).
Oslo, Nasjonalmuseet, Permanent Collection (another from the series exhibited).
Paris, Musée d'art moderne de la ville Paris, Permanent Collection (another from the series exhibited).
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
Further details
This work is registered in the Christian Boltanski Archives under No. CB1339.

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Lot Essay

A haunting, yet playful danse macabre of naïve forms, Théâtre d'Ombres (Theatre of Shadows) by French artist Christian Boltanski is an illusory light and sculptural installation of intimate human-like shapes made from everyday materials such as cardboard, wire, metal and dried leaves. The present work, conceived in 1985 and executed in 1990, Théâtre d'ombres is comprised of humble figurines delicately hung from a makeshift metal frame, dangling, swaying ever so slightly, suspended in air. Encircling the basic frame are light projectors, placed to cast light over the puppets, illuminating and enlarging each form on the wall and creating a larger-than-life dance of ghostly silhouettes. Transforming any space into a magical theatre of shadows, Théâtre d'ombres is a performance of the interplay between light and darkness, a meditation on the themes of the Vanitas, of life and of death. With other versions of this series held in major museum collections such as the Institute of Contemporary Art, Nagoya, the Nasjonalmuseet, Oslo and the Musée d'art moderne de la ville Paris.

The use of puppets was not new in Boltanski's oeuvre, employing them as subjects in many of his Compositions, photographic works in which he enlarges these tiny figurines, monumentalising in a two-dimensional fashion. The shift from flat works to installation, however, arose from the artist's own realisation that practice was moving toward a new direction. On the occasion of his major retrospective at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris in 1984, Boltanski noticed that his work had 'strayed far from his early intention of constructing an ironic oeuvre from fragile materials' (L. Gumpert, Christian Boltanski, Paris, 1994, p. 78). This realisation provided the catalyst for his next series, Ombres. With this series, Boltanski began to reject the physicality and substantiality of his Compositions, renewing the desire to explore the ephemeral and transient, qualities present in his earlier works of the seventies. Théâtre d'Ombres, comprised of approximately ten variations, was conceived and exhibited for the first time at Galerie t'Venster in Rotterdam this same year.

At once magical, religious and dream-like, this projected installation brims with multifaceted meanings and associations. The fragile and daintily crafted figurines transform from gentle marionettes to menacing skeletons and supernatural beings, moving silently in their 'dance of death' around the room. Referencing medieval allegorical painting as well as the traditional 'shadow play' of China, India and Indonesia, Théâtre d'ombres captures the universal, primordial forces of this world. Though appearing dark and sinister at first, it is a subtle reminder not of death ultimately, but of the ephemeral, fleeting nature of life.

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