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Christian Boltanski at Noguchi Museum

Christian Boltanski, Animitas, Noguchi Museum. © Ashley Cho

French sculptor Christian Boltanski’s Animitas, a sound installation consisting of 180 bronze bells, will fill the Noguchi Museum’s garden with a “music of lost souls” this summer, from May 5, 2021 – September 5, 2021. Throughout the exhibition, a continuous video will draw Animatas together with La Forêt des Murmures (2016), the permanent version of the work that is installed on the island of Teshima in Japan.

The first incarnation of this work appeared in a remote part of the Atacama Desert in 2014. The name references the small roadside shrines to the departed that are found in Chile. In that desolate, high-altitude landscape, now a location for international observatories, Boltanski installed 800 small bronze bells suspended from steel stems of various heights arranged to mimic the position of the stars on the night of his birth. Twisting in the wind, the bells play a gently cacophonous “music of lost souls.” The permanent installation in Japan allows visitors, walking through a ghostly forest of sound, to engrave the name of a loved one on a bell chime that then becomes a part of the work. The temporary installation in Queens is an echo of this work on the other side of the Pacific.

Boltanski long embraced Japanese thought and was particularly interested in the transcience of human existence. The Animitas installations are part of a larger body of work that includes another of Boltanski’s long-term projects, Les Archives du Coeur (2008– ), an ongoing effort to record and store the heartbeats of people all over the world in a sort of museum of spirits. This work is also based in Teshima, Japan. Weaving together multiple gardens, and the souls they memorialize, Boltanski extended the intimate, borderless, ephemeral network of loss and memory that constitutes his life’s work.

About Christian Boltanski

Born in 1944 in Paris, Christian Boltanski lived and worked in Malakoff, France until his death in July 2021. Since his first exhibition at Le Ranelagh cinema in 1968, Boltanski’s work has been shown in numerous countries. His works draw on museology, as he exhibited inventories of items from anonymous owners, and they are marked by the influence of Claude Lévi-Strauss and Harald Szeemann. Boltanski was recognized with several awards, including the Praemium Imperiale Award (2006) and the Kaiser Ring Award (2001). He participated in Documenta (1977 and 1972) and numerous Venice Biennales (2011, 1995, 1993, 1980, and 1975). His last solo shows were displayed at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, France (2019); Espace Louis Vuitton Tokyo, Japan (2019); The National Museum of Art, Osaka, Japan and the National Art Gallery, Tokyo, Japan (2019); The Israel Museum, Jerusalem (2018); and The Power Station of Art, Shanghai, China (2018).

Christian Boltanski. Photo: Didier Plowy

About The Noguchi Museum

Founded in 1985 by category-defying artist Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988), The Noguchi Museum in Queens, New York was the first museum in the United States to be established, designed, and installed by a living artist to show their own work. The museum features open air and indoor galleries in a repurposed 1920s industrial building and a serene outdoor sculpture garden. There is a comprehensive selection of Noguchi’s material culture, from sculpture, models, and drawings to his personal possessions, and various installations, exhibitions and collaborations with contemporary practitioners illuminate Noguchi's enduring influence.

The museum is open Wednesday–Sunday, 11 am–2 pm, 3–6 pm.