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Christian Boltanski recognizes something mournful in the way museums collect and display objects and asserts that "we can preserve things only by stopping life's course." In Boltanski's Archives, blurred portrait photographs of hundreds of anonymous individuals are arranged, with melancholic evocations, on wire-mesh grills recalling the racks of museum storage areas. A certain sense of morbidity is heightened by the cramped, dimly lighted room in which these photographs are hung. Of this work, Boltanski has written: "None of these superimposed faces tells us anything about the destiny of these beings, the different lives of each of them remain unknown to us. They are here, next to each other, they who had no reason to meet, waiting, until some can name them again."
Boltanski's Archives  
Christian Boltanski.
Archives 1987.

402 black and white photographs under glass, 6 metal screens, assembled in groups of 2, and electric lamps. Each photograph: 7 x 7 7/8" (18 x 20 cm) to 15 3/4 x 23 5/8" (40 x 60 cm). Each screen: 89 3/8 x 55 7/8" (227 x 142 cm). Collection Ydessa Hendeles. Courtesy Ydessa Hendeles Art Foundation, Toronto. Photo: Elke Walford, Fotowekstatt, Hamburger Kunsthalle, courtesy Yvon Lambert, Paris

  ©1999 The Museum of Modern Art, New York MoMA