Christian Boltanski is a French sculptor, painter, photographer and filmmaker. The self-taught Boltanski began to paint in 1958, but his breakthrough did not arrive until the late 1960s, with his short avant-garde films and publication of books in which he came to terms with his childhood. The combination of the real and the fictitious in his and other people’s lives came to be a central theme permeating his future art.
In the 1970s, photography became Boltanski’s favorite medium through which he explored forms of memory and consciousness. Boltanski turned to Conceptual Art as he worked with installations consisting of dramatic shadow play and photographs.
In the early 1980s Boltanski stopped his use of “ready-made” as a point of departure. Instead he began producing “theatrical compositions” by creating puppet-like figures made of cardboard, string and cork and painted in colors, which were later photographically incorporated into large picture formats.
In 1986 Boltanski began to create installations from a variety of different materials and media, using light effects as an integral component. In these works he used portraits of Jewish schoolchildren taken in Vienna in 1931. These served as a powerful reminder of the mass murder of Jews during World War II. Boltanski filled entire rooms and corridors with used clothing to recreate the links to the concentration camps. Just as in his earlier works, Boltanski uses objects to serve as a mute testimony to human experience and suffering. Through his installations, he struggles against anonymity and underscores instead the ever-presence of humanity.