Sophie Calle & Jean-Paul Demoule: The Elevator Resides in 501
Forty years after her original exploration, Sophie Calle returns during lockdown to an abandoned Hôtel du Palais d'Orsay
Between 1978 and 1981, Sophie Calle went on a clandestine exploration of the then abandoned Hôtel du Palais d'Orsay. She selected room 501 as her home and without any preestablished method, set about photographing the abandoned hotel over five years. As she explored, she picked up items she found: customer reception cards, old telephones, diaries, messages addressed to a certain “Oddo” and more. Now, more than 40 years later, room 501 has disappeared and an elevator has taken its place. At the invitation of Donatien Grau, the Musée d’Orsay curator, Calle returned, equipped with a flashlight, to explore the site again during the lockdown period. She hunted down the ghosts of the Palais d'Orsay, now connected to the present by the visitors that had also deserted the museum. The work reconstructs the artist’s archive of photography, letters, invoices and other daily items which bring a forgotten past back to life. To provide commentary on her discoveries, Sophie Calle enlisted the award-winning French archaeologist Jean-Paul Demoule, who writes a series of texts combining fact and fiction. All of this evidence has been assembled to create an art object that resembles an investigation notebook.
Sophie Calle (born 1953) is an internationally renowned artist whose controversial works explore the tensions between the observed, the reported, the secret and the unsaid. She has mounted solo shows at major museums around the world and represented France at the Venice Biennale in 2007. She lives and works in Paris.