Sophie Calle, For the Last and First Time

Dates : March 20 (Wednesday) - June 30 (Sunday), 2013

The Hara Museum is proud to present a solo exhibition by the French artist Sophie Calle. This exhibition by one of France’s leading contemporary artists consists of two parts. The Last Image (2010) is an installation that weaves together text and photographs taken by the artist about people who have lost the power of sight. Voir la mer (See the sea) (2011) captures on film the expression of persons seeing the ocean for the first time. To the sound of waves, Calle’s installations quietly contemplate questions that she has been exploring since her work The Blind in 1986: What is beauty? What does it mean to see? One possible answer provided by a blind man was the spark that propelled the artist to ponder these questions: “The most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen is the sea.”

Calle is largely known for her highly narrative artwork incorporating both photographs and text. She has held solo exhibitions at the Whitechapel Gallery, Centre Pompidou and other major museums throughout the world, and has represented her country at the 52nd Venice Biennale (2007) and other international art events.

In work revolving around intimate relations with others, Calle weaves together fact and fiction in ways that are fantastic and constantly surprising. And yet the themes which she addresses – identity, communication, memory, perception – are all universal in nature. Fourteen years ago at the Hara Museum, many viewers were moved by Exquisite Pain (1999), an exhibition that incorporated beautiful photographs and embroidered text in a tale about emotional healing through the exchange of heartbreaking experiences with others.

The current exhibition presents Calle’s most recent works on vision and perception, subjects that she has explored for many years. Consisting of two parts, The Last Image and Voir la mer, it is a show that caused a stir when exhibited for the first time in Istanbul at the Sabanci Museum (2011). Both are being presented in Japan for the first time. Also included is a special collaborative piece featuring an image from the artist Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Seascapes series.

A related exhibition of selected works from the Hara Museum Collection will be on view at Hara Museum ARC (the Hara Museum’s annex in Shibukawa, Gunma) and a film screening and talk by the artist at the Institut Français du Japon-Tokyo will also be held.

Exquisite Pain (to be exhibited at Hara Museum ARC)

Viewers in Japan may remember Exquisite Pain, Sophie Calle’s solo exhibition held at the Hara Museum fourteen years ago. In part one of that show (Countdown), letters to her most beloved person and photographs were used to relate the story of the worse day of her life. Part two (Countup) was the story of her gradual recovery, which she achieved by sharing her story of hurt with other people and then listening in turn to their stories about the worse experience of their lives. These many stories – of lost love, of lost eyesight, of the birth of a crippled child – were embroidered with black thread onto white sheets that were hung on the gallery walls. The unfolding of this part of her life and her encounter with the lives of others undoubtedly touched the hearts of many viewers. The fuzzy distinction, however, between fact and fiction that runs through her work underscores the danger of unquestioning belief.

Who Is Sophie Calle?

Sophie Calle is a French contemporary artist who has won fame largely for her highly narrative and often controversial work composed of photographs and language. For the project The Sleepers (1979), Calle photographed and interviewed 24 strangers whom she had invited to come to her home and sleep in her bed. For The Hotel (1981), Calle worked as a chambermaid at a hotel in Venice where she photographed the rooms of the hotel guests. The Address Book (1983) refers to an address book found by the artist. Calling the people listed in the book, Calle conducted interviews about the owner and then published them in the French daily newspaper Libération. These projects, including those made during the 1990s such as True Stories and Suite Venitienne, were intriguing mixtures of fact and fiction. During this time, she also began working on a series about persons without sight, beginning with The Blind. It was a profound examination into the nature of sight and perception, which lie at the very foundation of art.
Calle′s doings as a filmmaker and other aspects of her lifestyle inspired the author Paul Auster to use her as the model for a fictional character named Maria Turner in his novel Leviathan. Calle in turn assumed the personae of Maria Turner in a work she created called Double Game (1998). These works, which push the boundaries of contemporary art, remain a focus of much attention today.

Calle was born in Paris in 1953. In her late-teens, she left home to wander for seven years, returning to Paris at the age of 26. From that time, she began creating, and from 1980, she began to exhibit. She has held solo exhibitions at major museums such as the Tate Gallery (1998) and the Centre Pompidou (2003).

In Japan, she has held several solo exhibitions, including Exquisite Pain at the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo and an exhibition at the Toyota Municipal Museum of Art (2003). Her work has also appeared in such group exhibitions as Beyond the photographic frame / 11 recent works (1990, Art Tower Mito, Ibaraki) and Images in Transition: Photographic Representations in the Eighties (1990, National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo). She currently lives in Malakoff on the outskirts of Paris.

Featured artist

Sophie Calle

Organized by

Hara Museum of Contemporary Art

Under the auspices of

mbassy of France in Japan, Institut Français du Japon

Supported by

Institut Français du Japon

Cooperation provided by

Samsung Electronics Japan, Gallery Koyanagi