Monument to the Lycée Chases

Accession Number

Monument to the Lycée Chases

Christian Boltanski

Artist Nationality
French (culture or style)

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
gelatin silver prints, electric cables, and light bulbs

118 ⅛ in x 78 ¾ in (300.04 cm x 200.02 cm);118 ⅛ in x 78 ¾ in (300.04 cm x 200.02 cm)

Credit Line
Museum purchase made possible by the W. Hawkins Ferry Fund and anonymous individual benefactors

Label copy
March 28, 2009
Christian Boltanski was born in Paris in the wake of its liberation from Fascist control. Perhaps as a result of his childhood experiences, he has explored themes of memory, death, and mourning in a variety of media—film, paint, photography, and found objects.
Christian Boltanski’s evocative, often ephemeral installations archive and memorialize anonymous individual loss. Monument to the Lycée Chases is part of a series of works Boltanski began in 1987, inspired by a found photograph of the 1931 graduating class from a private Jewish high school in Vienna, Austria. The artist rephotographed, enlarged, and isolated each student’s face, effectively erasing and universalizing individual identities. Organized into three illuminated diamond-shaped zones, the installation’s constellated web of naked light bulbs and wires dangles over and around the photographs. The portraits are haunting in their murkiness, mere silhouettes or intimations of corporal presences that together comprise a moving meditation on loss and endurance.

Subject matter
The subject of Boltanski's mixed media piece is the Holocaust and Holocaust memory. The photographs in the piece are enlargements from a 1931 graduating class picture from a Jewish high school in Vienna, the Lycée Chases. The piece is both a memorial to the victims and an engagement with the fate of the memory of the dead.

Physical Description
This installation is composed of a group of gelatin silver prints that are hung on the wall with sixty-four light bulbs strung throughout, a web of hanging electric cables connecting them.  In the center hang three larger photos of young people's faces. Above each and below the center image are smaller versions of similar portrait photographs. Four of these smaller photos are also arranged in the line of the large photographs, one on each end, and two separating the larger pictures.  

Primary Object Classification
Mixed Media

Primary Object Type

Additional Object Classification(s)

Collection Area
Modern and Contemporary

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assemblages (sculpture)
electric lamps (lighting device components)
gelatin silver prints
light art
social science concepts

14 Related Resources

(Part of 5 Learning Collections)
Art of interest to Judaic Studies
(Part of 3 Learning Collections)
Death and Dying
(Part of 8 Learning Collections)
Grief and Mourning Rituals
(Part of 5 Learning Collections)
Monuments and Memorials
(Part of 4 Learning Collections)
Social Justice
(Part of 3 Learning Collections)
Social Justice and Art, 1969-today
(Part of 4 Learning Collections)
Surreal Photography
(Part of 2 Learning Collections)
Essay: Christian Boltanski
(Part of: Docent Essays on UMMA Collection Objects)
W21 Tanielian - INTLSTD 401 - Afterlives
(Part of: Resources Made by Isabel Engel)

& Author Notes

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