Christian Boltanski (French, b. 1944)
Monument (Odessa), 1989-2003
- Gelatin silver prints, tin biscuit boxes, lights, and wire
- Installation approximately: 80 x 72 in. (203.2 x 182.9 cm)
- The Jewish Museum, New York
- Purchase: Melva Bucksbaum Contemporary Art Fund, 2003-11a-kk
- ©Courtesy of the Marian Goodman Gallery, New York
Not on view
The reference to Odessa in the title recalls the birthplace of the artist's paternal grandfather. He says, "My work is about the fact of dying, but it's not about the Holocaust itself." However, having grown up in postwar France with the knowledge of his father having hidden in fear during the occupation, Boltanski was never far removed from the reality of genocide.
Knowing the religion of the children in this work and the year in which they were photographed inevitably links them to the Holocaust and evokes thoughts about their unknown fate. The lights illuminating their images thus suggest another interpretation--namely, Yahrzeit candles to honor and remember the dead. The empty, rusted tin biscuit boxes, a fixture in Boltanski's works, hold more than childhood treasures and memories--they hold the unwritten histories of unrealized lives.