by Robert Gardner
In 2010 the much beloved and admired French artist Christian Boltanski was given the immense confines of the Grand Palais in Paris to install a piece entitled PERSONNES. For the French, ‘personne’ means both a person and a no one. The installation was concerned with the presence and absence of people in an enormous amount (30 tons) of clothing. When Boltanski sees a discarded coat he is seeing a dead person who has left that coat behind.
Robert Gardner has known Boltanski since the 1970s, when he invited him to the Carpenter Center for Visual Arts at Harvard as a visting artist, and the following years since Boltanski has become a major figure in the art world. Gardner and photographer Michael Hutcherson travelled to Paris to make a film about Boltanski and the PERSONNES installation process.