Christian Boltanski (Paris, 1944-2021), Les Habitants de l’hôtel de Saint-Aignan en 1939, Paris, 1998
The contemporary art collection of the mahJ currently includes around 300 works by emerging or recognized artists from the international scene, residing and working in France or abroad.
Kader Attia (Dugny, 1970), Big Bang, 2005
The contemporary collection was mainly formed from encounters, that is to say invitations to work over the long term, with Jewish or non-Jewish artists, but always with a requirement for openness, resonance with the themes developed in the permanent collection or with the objects presented within the museum.
Christian Boltanski inaugurated this program by conceiving Les Habitants de l’hôtel de Saint-Aignan in 1939, a fragile monument that crosses the 20th century wing of the Museum. Jean-Pierre Bertrand, Arik Levy and Michel Nedjar were invited to work on the holidays of the Jewish calendar, the themes of which fed, often surprisingly, their creation.
The relationship to the book, to the text, to the language is the framework on which many of the mahJ's commissions and acquisitions are almost naturally inscribed: Micha Ullman created, for the museum's collection, five Books of Sand; Serge Lask and Judith Bartolani produced works that combine memory with the compulsive practice of writing.
The Maratier Prize, awarded every two years by the Pro mahJ Foundation, has made it possible to integrate into the collections works as different as those of Max Wechsler, Pierrette Bloch, Iris Sara Schiller, Nira Pereg, Moshe Ninio or more recently Dove Allouche.
La Nuit blanche is the occasion, each year, for a commission to an artist for the space of the main courtyard or the contemporary gallery of the museum. Among many others, Kader Attia, Antoine Grumbach, Rainier Lericolais and Mili Pecherer have measured themselves against it and produced specific works in resonance with the themes of the museum.
The collection has thus been enriched, over the course of the projects, with emblematic works that explore themes as rich as those of memory, identity, the place of the book, mother tongue, or exile and exclusion. Works where the intimate or autobiographical story sometimes, mingles with history to reach a universal dimension. Through their positions and their visual solicitations, the artists open up perspectives, bring out questions that are as much aesthetic as political.