Sophie Calle’s ghost files

Like ghost files replacing a volume taken from the shelves of a library, Sophie Calle revives the borrowed pieces of museums leaving empty spaces behind. Invited in 1989 to the Museum of Modern Art of Paris, the artist discovered the void that the work Nu dans le bain by Pierre Bonnard, loaned to another museum, left on the wall. Trying to bring it back to life, she starts a real investigation about this art piece interviewing visitors, guards, curators and other members of the museum in order to describe it and even draw it. Thus, she brings the canvas into existence through the memories she collected. Little by little, the meetings with the absent pieces gave rise to a project : to inquire about everything concerning missing works with which she will be confronted through her wanderings. Then begins a real itinerant work where transmission and memory intertwine.

The multiple stories surrounding the works, wheter loaned, stolen or replaced, were subsequently assembled into a collection bearing the name Fantômes (Ghosts) published in 2013 by Actes Sud Editions. One of the last pages of this particularly evocative book questions the part of visible and invisible that surrounds the works that inhabit museums :

“I asked clairvoyant Maud Kristen what she saw in these empty frames. Ghosts occupy the frame, as if this theft had freed the characters, had allowed them to leave this frozen representation while remaining in the place. I feel them more present in their absence.” [1]

[1] Sophie Calle, Fantômes, Arles, Actes Sud, 2013, p.167.

Sophie Calle, Que voyez-vous ? Le Concert. Vermeer. (détail), 2013 – Photographie couleur, textes, encadrements (capot plexiglas et cadre métal traité) — 68 × 101 cm (chaque, photographie et texte) + texte introduction (15 × 20 cm)
Sophie Calle, Tableaux dérobés : Turner, 1998-2013 — Deux photographies couleur, texte, encadrements.
Sophie Calle, Fantômes, Arles, Actes Sud, 2013
Sophie Calle, Fantômes, Arles, Actes Sud, 2013
Sophie Calle, Fantômes, Arles, Actes Sud, 2013
Sophie Calle, Fantômes, Arles, Actes Sud, 2013

© Sophie Calle
With the courtesy of the artist & Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin — Saint Claude, Paris
© Sophie Calle, Fantômes, Arles, Actes Sud, 2013