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Inventory of Objects Belonging to a Young Man of Oxford

Christian Boltanski1973/1973

Modern Art Oxford

Modern Art Oxford

In January 1973, Christian Boltanski sent 62 handwritten letters to museums of art, history and anthropology around the world. He proposed an unusual exhibition in which the objects belonging to a recently deceased individual would be assembled, classified and displayed according to the museum’s normal protocols within one of its galleries. The person in question was not to be a member of the art world, but a ‘typical’ resident of the local city. The Museum of Modern Art Oxford’s director at the time, Peter Ibsen, was among the few who agreed to undertake the project. Following the artist’s precise instructions, Ibsen selected a male undergraduate from Christ Church College and painstakingly photographed the hundreds of quotidian items that surrounded him, from socks and a packet of laundry liquid to a rosary. Boltanski arrived in Oxford two days before the opening to finalise the display and the exhibition was almost entirely organised by letter. The correspondence, drawn from MAO’s archive, documents the process through which Inventory of the Objects Belonging to a Young Man of Oxford was jointly created.

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