Skip to main content

Sophie Calle


Paris, France, 1953

French conceptual artist Sophie Calle has redefined through personal investigation the terms and parameters of subject/object, the public versus the private, and role-playing. In her conceptual projects, Calle immerses herself in examinations of voyeurism, intimacy and identity. Calle’s “method” of dealing with the suffering the world throws at her is to see it all as a game of chance and coincidence, a ritual ripe for exposure on a wall.

The daughter of a doctor who collected pop art and a press officer mother, Calle never went to art school. She keeps no sketchbooks. “Ideas just come to me,” she has said. After completing her schooling, Calle took off to travel the world for seven years. When she came back to Paris in 1979, she began following and photographing strangers as a way to become reacquainted with the city and its people. In the process of secretly investigating, reconstructing or documenting strangers’ lives, Calle manipulates situations and individuals, and often adopts guises. Calle is fascinated by the interface between our public lives and our private selves. This has led her to investigate patterns of behavior using techniques akin to those of a private investigator, a psychologist, or a forensic scientist. It has also led her to investigate her own behavior so that her life, as lived and as imagined, has informed many of her most interesting works. Calle’s projects, with their suggestions of intimacy, also questioned the role of the spectator; viewers often feel a sense of unease as they became the unwitting collaborators in these violations of privacy. Moreover, the deliberately constructed and thus in one sense artificial nature of the documentary ‘evidence’ used in Calle’s work questioned the nature of all truths.

Calle’s work has been shown at the 1990 Sydney Biennial and the 1993 Biennial Exhibition of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and has been included in exhibitions at the Musee d’art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; De Appel, Amsterdam; the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London; The Clocktower and The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Hayward Gallery, London; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; the Serpentine Gallery, London, and Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel. In
2007, Calle showed in French Pavillion at the Venice Biennale. Her exhibit, entitled “Take Care of Yourself”, named after the last line of the message her ex had left her, won her international critical acclaim.

Calle currently lives and works in Paris, France.