Sophie Calle - Rachel, Monique - Palais de Tokyo

French artist Sophie Calle's powerful installation, dealing with the death of her mother, in the brut concrete space under the Palais de Tokyo certainly packs a punch. Calle's mother, Monique Sindler, had always wanted to be the subject of her daughter's work, and when, upon learning her mother was on her deathbed the artist decided to set up her camera and film her, Sindler exclaimed "enfin" ("at last"). 

The cold, empty exhibition space makes for a fitting mausoleum for Calle's installation pieces which include lilies, the flower of death, and a stuffed giraffe (which the artist installed in her studio after her mother's death to watch over her). Photographs and texts explain Calle's voyage to the North Pole, where her mother had always dreamt of going, to bury her mother's most treasured possessions. Monique's last word was "souci" at the end of a sentence in which she implored her daughter not to worry, and we see this word isolated in various formats echoed visually around the exhibition. 

The artist renders her mother immortal in the video of her on her deathbed, but renders her dying for an eternity, and as such there is an acceptance of death in the artist's treatment of the subject. As much as tissues should be handed out at the entrance of the exhibition to mop up the floods of tears it provokes in the spectator, the artist also makes us laugh as she remains subtle and often extremely witty.  Calle is neither heavy handed nor dramatic - but this just makes the installation all the more sincere and all the more emotive. 

This is a very powerful, beautiful and poignant exhibition; try to catch it before it ends next week. 

Rachel, Monique - Sophie Calle
Until 28th Nov
13 ave du President Wilson
75016 Paris


  1. Wow that is absolutely beautiful! What a wonderful tribute to her mother. Thank you for sharing! I love posts about art, esp contemporary art I'm not yet familiar with. This is one artist I'll be sure to remember!

  2. nice! I'm really hoping to get to this one as I usually like her shows. have you been to the Sophie Calle telephone box in Paris?

  3. Oooh, I have got to get over to this pronto - I leave town on Wednesday! xx Elisabeth

  4. I saw an exhibit by Sophie Calle in NYC many years ago and later again in Paris...very powerful! I will try to see this before it ends.