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Arts of Europe

The MFAH collections of art created on the European continent encompass artistic styles across the time line of history, from the ancient world to the Middle Ages, and the Early Modern era to the 21st century.

© 2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
French, born 1944
Monuments (La Fête du Pourim)
Gelatin silver prints with glass, tape, metal biscuit boxes, light bulbs, wire, and connectors

Dimensions variable

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Museum purchase with funds provided by the
Brown Foundation Accessions Endowment Fund

Arts of Europe

Although he trained as a painter, Christian Boltanski is best known for his installations of found photographs, which he combines with light sources. In these glowing, altar-like assemblages, Boltanski looks at the construction and representation of memory.

The title of this work references the horrors of genocide, both of the distant past and of contemporary times. Purim, from the biblical Book of Esther, is the celebration of the failed plot to annihilate the Jews of the Persian Empire. Boltanski brings this story into the 20th century. Using a 1939 picture of a group of children dressed up for a Purim celebration, Boltanski rephotographed each face, enlarging the images until most identifying details were lost. He then mounted the cropped faces above biscuit tins, once commonly used as lunch boxes by French children. Around each photograph he installed small electric lights, as if they were votive candles. Monuments (La Fête du Pourim) is an oblique memorial, powerfully conveying a sense of human loss and collective trauma.