Christian Boltanski’s haunting installations speak to human presence and absence. This work acts as a memento mori, or remembrance of death, that grapples with the trauma of the Holocaust. The biscuit tins refer to the traditional practice of using the containers to store family documents, while their shape resembles coffins or columbaria—structures used for storing the cremated remains of the deceased. The fabric heaped on top of the tins suggests piles of clothing left by the departed, and the desk lamp evokes several possible meanings—from a memorial candle to an interrogation lamp. The photographs on each tin came from obituaries in a Swiss newspaper.



  • Title: Reserve of Dead Swiss
  • Creator: Christian Boltanski
  • Creator Lifespan: b.1944
  • Creator Nationality: French
  • Creator Gender: Male
  • Creator Birth Place: Paris, France
  • Date: 1990/1990
  • Physical Dimensions: 116 x 37 x 13 1/2 in. (294.6 x 94 x 34.3 cm)
  • Credit Line: Purchase, partial gift of Helen Gifford, Suzanne and Jack Jacobson, Lee and Bernard Jaffe, Lance A. Lavenstein, Dr. and Mrs. Robert M. Rubin, Gerald Sprayregen and the Art Purchase Fund
  • Type: Installation
  • Rights: ©Christian Boltanski
  • Medium: Mixed media

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