Christian Boltanski

“For me the most interesting period is the one in which the spectators are not yet aware that what they are experiencing is art. During this moment – which is relatively short – you can engage spectators by presenting them with something that is art without saying that it is art. But very soon they realise that it’s art, complacency sets in, and all they see is an outer form. That’s also quite sad, because out of all you’ve created, the only thing left is the outer form. Everything you’re trying to say disappears.”

Christian Boltanski From Art Actual Skira Annuel. Geneva: Skira, 1975 pp.146-148

7 thoughts on “Christian Boltanski

    1. Jon

      Sorry. I couldn’t resist. I’m certainly not the first one to do it. 😉

      About the quote, I think we can also developp a clot of complacency about all of our art theories… So often, it is us, the artists, who don’t really know what we want to say or pretentiously think that we have an important message to give to the world.

      I spent countless hours disserting about art and music with my late partner and his scholar-friends, but in the end, there is simply a bunch of people who are just killing time.


  1. IDV

    So, once art can be allocated a practical purpose (other than the ephemeral purpose of being art), it then becomes a thing – “the outer form”?

  2. Scarlet Post author

    I think ‘the outer form’ is the result of a long process. A book, for instance, is the result of an individual painstakingly writing for hours on end, researching, re-writing, plotting, editing, etc… the writer will probably run through a gamut of emotions during the process… from elation to serious self doubt, but the end product is a book. That’s all the reader sees… the whole process is forgotten – unseen, unrecognised.
    Monet had a bit of a thing for haystacks, see HERE, but generally, when people look at a painting of a haystack… all they see is a painting of a haystack.
    Anyhow, this is what this quote means to me 🙂

    1. Scarlet Post author

      And also… there is the moment when someone ‘gets’ something… that very short moment when understanding takes place…. they ‘get’ it, have the thrill of understanding… and then interest can be lost?
      I will shut up now 🙂


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