• Artist: Christian Boltanski
  • Creation date: (1984)
  • Object type: Installation

Not on display


Christian Boltanski is dealing with recent history in his emotially laden work. “I am half Jewish and half Christian … All my work is more or less about the Holocaust,” he said in an interview in 1994.

Boltanski transforms concrete political and personal history into universal artworks with an apparent human dimension, in the widest sense of the word. Working mainly with large scale theatrical installations he animates the viewer to engage physically with them. After this first phenomenological encounter it is difficult not to get caught up in an emotional involvement.

The works are often simple but fragile in execution, using universal iconography, and showing a touch of emphatic carelessness. For his Théatre d’Ombres from 1984 he uses small metal figurines, primitive in their style and handmade out of metal foil and thread. There is a skull, some ghosts, some skeletons, masks and scary faces. They are all dangling from a simple metal frame placed on the gallery floor. Light spots next to them throw their shadows multiplied in size onto the walls.

Behind the work lie children’s rituals. The dance of life and death reaches an elusive borderline here. The experience is ambivalent, at once laughable and sad. Boltanski says he has always been interested in childhood. He feels that we all carry a dead child within us.

Text: Andrea Kroksnes

From "Highlights. Art from 1945 to the Present", Nasjonalmuseet 2016, ISBN 978-82-8154-116-0


Christian Boltanski


Born 1944, death 14.07.2021

Work info

Creation date:
Other titles:
Skyggespill (NOR)
Théâtre d'ombres (FRA)
Object type:
Materials and techniques:
figurer av diverse materialer på stativ, halogenlamper og vifte
Kjøpt 1994
Inventory no.:
Cataloguing level:
Complex object/artwork
Owner and collection:
Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design, The Fine Art Collections
Morten Thorkildsen/Andreas Harvik
© Boltanski, Christian/BONO