The Sleepers (Les dormeurs)

The Sleepers (Les dormeurs)
numbered (on the reverse of each print)
176 elements--ink on gelatin silver prints
24 elements--ink on paper
90 page manuscript--ink on paper
199 elements, each: 6 x 8 in. (15.2 x 20.3 cm.)
one element: 11 1/16 x 8 9/16 in. (28 x 21.7 cm)
manuscript, each sheet approximately: 11¾ x 8 3/8 in. (29.8 x 21.2 cm.)
Executed in 1979. This work is number one from an English edition of two. This work also exists in a French edition of two plus one artist's proof. (201)
Fred Hoffman Gallery, Santa Monica
Scott Spiegel, Los Angeles
Meryl Friedman, Santa Monica, by descent
Fred Hoffman Gallery, Santa Monica
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1999
G. Jones, "Other People's Lives," Frieze, issue 3, January-March 1992.
L. Neri, "Sophie Calle," Interview, April 2009.
S. Jeffries, "Sophie Calle: Stalker, Stripper, Sleeper, Spy," Guardian, 23 September 2009.
ARC, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, XI, Biennale de Paris, Manifestation internationale des jeunes artistes, 1980 (another example exhibited).
New York, Clocktower, Une I'dée en l'Air, 1980 (another example exhibited).
Geneva, Galerie Canon, Les Dormeurs, 1981 (another example exhibited).
Santa Monica, Fred Hoffman Gallery, Sophie Calle, July-September 1989, pp. 8, 12-17 and 57, no. 1 (illustrated).
Boston, Institute of Contemporary Art, Sophie Calle: A Survey, January-March 1990.
Berkeley, University of California, University Art Museum, Matrix/Berkeley 133: Sophie Calle, February-April 1990 (illustrated and on the cover).
ARC, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Sophie Calle: á suivre, July-October 1991 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Minneapolis, Bockley Gallery, The Sleepers, Fall 1994 (another example exhibited).
Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Sophie Calle: True Stories, February-May 1996, pp. 20-39 and 215 (illustrated).
Madrid, Centre Cultural Fundación la Caixa; Barcelona, Centre Cultural de la Fundación la Caixa and Granada, Palacio de los Condes, Relatos, December 1996-July 1997, pp. 32-46 and 114 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Seattle, Donald Young Gallery, The Sleepers, Suite Vénitienne, Birthday Ceremony, September-November 1997 (another example exhibited).
Musée National d'Art Moderne de Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou; Dublin, Irish Museum of Modern Art; Berlin, Martin-Gropius-Bau and Aachen, Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst, Sophie Calle: M'as-Tu Vue?, November 2003-April 2005, pp. 21, 137, 143-154 and 433 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
London, Whitechapel Gallery, Sophie Calle: Talking to Strangers, October 2009-January 2010 (another example exhibited).

Lot Essay

"I asked people to give me a few hours of their sleep. To come and sleep in my bed. To let themselves be looked at and photographed. I took photographs every hour. I watched my guests sleep" (Sophie Calle, The Sleepers, 1979).
Sophie Calle's intimate portraits of strangers who she invited to sleep in her bed is a consummately resolved installation, and marks the beginning of her intense examination of the boundaries between public and private life. This work forms the foundation for much of her subsequent ground-breaking oeuvre in which she infiltrates the lives of people she has never met and builds up a sense of their identities from their movements and acquaintance. The present lot is one of only two examples of the complete work that were produced in English; two were also produced in French and one of these formed the centerpiece of the artist's 2003-2004 retrospective at the Pompidou Center in Paris. The Sleepers (les dormeurs) commanding physical presence is offset by the intimacy of people captured during their most private time, but by doing so in somebody else's space, the work provides us with an immensely powerful and prophetic insight into the innate human desire for companionship, while at the same time retaining the basic need for privacy in our increasingly public world.
The initial impetus for this project stemmed from a request from one of Calle's friends to sleep in her bed. This started the artist thinking about the boundaries between public and private space and the activities that are carried out within them, and she began asking friends and strangers to sleep in her bed for an entire week. As with all of Calle's installations from this period, she devised strict parameters in which she operated and would record the events that unfolded both with photographs and text, which she then assembled to produce the finished work: "I contacted 45 people by phone: People I didn't know and whose names were suggested to me by common acquaintances, a few friends and residents of the neighborhood whose work called on them to sleep during the day: the baker for instance. I intended my bedroom to become a constantly occupied space for eight days, with sleepers succeeding one another at regular intervals. 29 people finally accepted. Among these five never showed up: an agency baby sitter and I took their places. 16 people refused either because they had other commitments or the thing didn't agree with them. The occupation of the bed began on Sunday, April 1, at 5pm and ended on Monday , April 9, at 10am. 28 sleepers succeed one another. A few of them crossed each other. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner were served depending on the time of day. Clean bedsheets were provided at the disposal of each sleeper" (S. Calle, M'as-tu vue, exh. cat., Centre Pompidou, Munich, 2010, p. 145).
The resulting one hundred and seventy six photographs and twenty three text descriptions are then arranged in chronological order in a grid pattern on the wall. These photographs, with hand written notations detailing the people who were featured, showed Calle's participants making themselves at home in her bed; some are soundly asleep, while others read, eat, talk on the telephone, and do the things that people normally do in bed. While some might have hoped for it, there was no overt sexual component to the project, although Calle imposed no specific rules about what could or could not be done by the participants during their time in her bed.
The Sleepers (les dormeurs) marks the start of a journey for Calle who, although she never set out to be an artist, ended up as one of Europe's most influential practitioners of conceptual art. This is the first of several important works in which she built up the identity of strangers with a forensic ability to track down information. After completing The Sleepers (les dormeurs), she trailed a man she met at a party to Venice where, without knowing anything about him, she managed to track down his whereabouts by phoning every hotel in the city and then persuading the women who owned the apartment opposite his hotel to let her photograph the man's comings and goings from her window. But perhaps her most controversial work was Address Book, 1983, in which, using an address book she found in the street, she built up a picture of its owner, identified only as Pierre D., by contacting each of the people listed in the book and questioning them about him, even going so far as taking photographs of other people engaged in his favorite activities. Flirting with ideas surrounding chance and control, choice and constraint, and intimacy and distance Calle addresses the contradictions inherent in the modern world-its culture of surveillance and its compulsion to expose-by following a strict set of rules within her practice even as she rebels against what she sees as the endless freedoms we are offered in today's modern society.
In some ways The Sleepers (les dormeurs), with its documentary record of people's most hidden moments, also examines the relationship between the viewer and the viewed. People who have looked at the images have often reported feeling uneasy at being made to share these normally private moments. However, Calle is the first is to point out that there is no compulsion to view her work; people are drawn to it because of their instinctively curious nature. In this manner, Calle's observational style of photography could be regarded as a prophetic vision of our contemporary social media-obsessed culture, where people routinely display their private lives for the world to see via Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.
At its heart The Sleepers (les dormeurs) is about the demarcation between the public and the private world, and Calle's poignant photographs of people during their most private moments, which is then publically displayed as works of art, highlights the fluidity of these boundaries. By using the medium of photography, with its historical associations of truthfulness, Calle adds a further layer to this complex question. Her works force the viewer to stop, think, and question-something that has become increasingly rare in our modern society as our use of technology and media consumption has increased at an ever-increasing rates. Our ability to critically question what we see is in danger of diminishing, but Calle's distinctive way of questioning reality exists to warn us equally of the dangers of complacency.

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