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ESPRITS Christian Boltanski at Manege

Animitas Blanc (Animitas White), installation view, Ile d’Orléans, Québec, Canada, 2017 

ESPRITS Christian Boltanski at Manege

15 March–15 May 2022

Manege Central Exhibition Hall (St. Petersburg) presents Russia’s first-ever solo exhibition by French art legend Christian Boltanski.

This project is made possible with support from the Institut Français in Russia in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the signing of the agreement on cultural cooperation between the Russian Federation and the French Republic.

Christian Boltanski (1944–2021) was one of contemporary art’s most outstanding and influential figures. Esprits is one of the last exhibitions to which Boltanski had personally contributed.

Christian Boltanski, Monumenta 2010, Grand Palais, Paris   

Boltanski himself selected those of his works from the past 10 to 15 years – large installations, video artworks, and art objects – to be exhibited at Manege. Some of his new pieces will be on public display for the first time: he created them as he reflected on events from Russian history and attempted to immerse himself in them more fully.

Boltanski’s project concept offers insights into subjects he has always accorded paramount importance: loss, memories, existential choices, fate, and personal and collective history. After the artist’s death, the team kept continued work on the project, using the materials, blueprints, and thoughts Christian left behind.

Personnes (Persons/Nobodies), exhibition view „Storage Memory“ at Power Station of Art, Shanghai, 2018

“I wish I could find some word connected with ghosts. But one that is tied to the idea of a return from the land of the dead rather than any particular place.”

From Christian Boltanski’s letter to Andrei Erofeev

“The pandemic has brought about a frightening but very curious phenomenon. Remember how we used to deny the very notion of death prior to the COVID era? Well, now we speak of death as something that is all around and a part of our reality.”

Christian Boltanski’s interview for Marian Goodman Gallery

Moved, 2013, exhibition view „Storage Memory“ at Power Station of Art, Shanghai, 2018  

When ruminating on a project at Manage, Christian mentioned that the concept of the St. Petersburg exhibition should be connected with Bloody Sunday. According to his notes, he was thinking about souls of insurgent workers wandering around the Manege space, waiting to be dispatched to Heaven or Hell.

For Christian, Manege was a symbolic place, saturated with history. The Dioscuri statues on the portico reminded him of an Ancient Greek myth. The brothers Castor and Polydeuces, sons of Zeus, were great heroes. Polydeuces was endowed with immortality by his father, while Castor was mortal. Not wishing to part with his brother, Polydeuces shared his immortality with Castor, but for this he was condemned to wander between Olympus and Hades with his brother for all eternity.

Personnes (Persons/Nobodies), exhibition view „Almas“ at Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Santiago, Chile, 2014

The exhibition Esprits is organized by Manege in collaboration with Eva Albarran & Co (Eva Albarran & Co).