Christian Boltanski (b. 1944, Paris, France) is a visual artist who works with a number of media including sculpture, painting, installation, film and photography. His artworks have utilised materials including clay, sugar and gauze, as well as appropriated readymade objects. While never formally educated at art school or part of a specific movement, Boltanski quickly received acclaim in his twenties for his short avant-garde films and published notebooks about his childhood. He went on to become known for his works which poetically deal with death, memory and loss.
The themes explored in his early works continue in his later installations and sculptures as an interest in memory and consciousness, the real and fictitious pervades his artistic practice. In the 1970s, Boltanski focused primarily on photography as a way of communicating an atmosphere or essence of memory. Thereafter, he engaged with photography as a form of painting, building up compositions that reflected what he felt to be the collective aesthetic condition of contemporary civilisation. By the late 1980s, Boltanski’s installation work began to revolve heavily around the Holocaust – in a tribute to the human suffering and experiences of individuals during this historical period.
Boltanksi’s art has been exhibited in museums all over the world including Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (1984); Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1988), the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (1990), the Grand Palais, Paris (2010), and Park Avenue Armory (2010).
As one of the most critically acclaimed French artists of his generation, Boltanski has been awarded a number of honours including the ‘Créateurs sans frontières’ for visual arts by Cultures France (ex AFAA) (2007); the 'Praemium Imperiale Award' by the Japan Art Association (2007), the 'Kaiser Ring', Goslar (2001); and the 'Kunstpreis', awarded by Nord/LB, Braunschweig, Germany (2001).