What to Buy from Paris, Then and Now
26 3/4 x 39 3/4 inches (each, photo and text) + 6 x 7 3/4 inches (introduction text) / 68 x 101 cm (chaque, photographie et texte) + 15 x 20 cm (texte d'introduction)
Introduction On March 18, 1990, six paintings by Rembrandt, Flinck, Manet and Vermeer, five drawings by Degas, one vase, and one Napoleonic eagle were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. The frames of the Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Flinck paintings were left behind. In 1994, after being restored, the empty frames were hung back in place, further emphasizing the painting's absence. i asked the curators, guards, other staff members and visitors to tell me what they saw within these frames. Text I don't see something very communicative. I see a frame and nothing in the frame. You know it's an absence, but you don't know an absence of what I see vacant space that's not vacant. I see a space of meditation on what's missing. I see a frame that doesn't really stand in as a substitute or an understudy for the painting, a frame that makes the absence of the painting striking. It's just a holding place. A space that shows a painting is gone and reminds you it will come back All I can see is that ghost, that missing child, between the man and the woman. I'm focused on this wonderful sort of secret, remembering the absence more than the painting. It was more fascinating for what you couldn't see than for what you did. I'm connecting the loss with that child who may have been painted out because he died. And now, everyone's gone I can picture their faces perfectly-a man and a woman-but this painting never meant much to me, and why anyone would take it-that's just a mystery I see the tremendous amount of varnish we've built up around Rembrandt, so we can't really see Rembrandt anymore. Maybe that's why the frame is empty I see sacrilege. I see a frame that makes the absence of the painting striking. I see an amazing void that reminds you of the power of something so simple as canvas with paint on it. I see a space that can't be filled by anything else. Replacement would be dishonest; it would give us the sensation that we are acting as if we weren't a huge loss I don't feel the public needs to be reminded; I just like the way the frame looks. I like its dimensions, the way its crowns these chairs. I love the framing of the damask pattern behind. I see a lot of roses. That's what I see. I see bouquets. I don't think that you would pay the same kind of attention to them if they weren't framed I just see a narrative. I see that once there was a painting, and it is gone. But I thought I would see more of the absence, I thought it would be more "missing." This empty frame is a great idea conceptually, but at first, I didn't even notice that this was the room. Then when its pointed out, you see the absence Maybe I'm just tired, for me there's nothing there. But if you didn't have the frame, people would think there is a gap Knowing that this frame once held a masterpiece, I can look at it in two ways : I can see it as this sad emblem of a terrible loss, the fabric representinga Rembrandt that doesn't exist. Or I can look at it as a celebration of this exquisite silk It almost looks like a curtain. Like before a play. Except it's not hiding anything and there isn't much to look at. I imagine they took out the painting? May be they meant to leave it that way to exercise people's imagination I see an attempt to draw attention to the frame. It might be because the frame isn't always looked at, it's always what's in the frame It's hard to imagine a painting, because it's gone. And that's the point of leaving the frame there. They want to make us believe it's not I see something very vague. It's been so long. This painting was already quiet and sad and absent I see the portrait of a couple, in a storage facility somewhere...
Image rights: Courtesy Galerie Perrotin
A controversial figure as well as one of France’s leading conceptual artists, Sophie Calle explores her own psychological and emotional terrain in multimedia works, probing ideas of control, freedom, gender, intimacy, and distance in human relationships. Perhaps her most contentious work, Address Book (1983) was inspired by an address book that Calle found on the street, photographed, and sent back to its owner. She then rang the numbers in the book to assemble a portrait of the owner, turning the results into a multimedia installation. For Take Care of Yourself (2007), which was exhibited in the French pavilion at the 2007 Venice Biennale, Calle invited 107 women from various walks of life to interpret and assess a breakup note the artist received in an email. In a range of media including photographic portraits, textual analysis, and filmed performances, women pore over the emotional content of the email; contributions include a clairvoyant’s response, a scientific study, and a child’s fairytale.
French, b. 1953, Paris, France, based in Malakoff, France
What to Buy from Paris, Then and Now
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