b. 1953, Paris
Parisian-born Sophie Calle spent several years traveling the world in the 1970s, only to find herself feeling alone and disconnected from the city upon her return. To deal with this sense of disassociation, she began following people she encountered as they moved throughout Paris, engaging with the city through its inhabitants. Her documentation of these activities eventually led to the publication of Suite Vénitienne (1980), a compilation of photographs and diaries the artist created when she followed a man from Paris to Venice, and set the tone for her unique artistic career.
Calle employs any number of methods to document her artistic investigations, from photographs to writing to film and installation. She is known for her detective-like sensibilities and the construction of situations that allow her to observe people intimately. She has invited both friends and strangers to sleep in her bed, worked as a chambermaid in a hotel in order to explore the belongings of the guests, and interviewed the individuals listed in a found address book about its owner. The artist has also subjected herself to her voyeuristic pursuits, hiring a private detective to follow her and examining her own heartbreak in Exquisite Pain, 2005, and Take Care of Yourself, 2007. Her work tests a variety of dichotomies, from public versus private persona to masculine and feminine roles, and frequently examines issues of identity and intimacy. Never one to leave a matter unquestioned, she also explores the limitations and biases of the mediums she employs.
A professor at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, Calle teaches courses on film and photography, frequently working with art historian Yve-Alain Bois. Her work has been exhibited extensively around the world, and her recent solo exhibitions include Sophie Calle: Historias de Pared, Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín, Colombia (2012, traveled); Sophie Calle: Talking to Strangers, De Pont Museum voor Hedendaagse Kunst, Tilburg, The Netherlands (2010); and Sophie Calle, Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris (2003, traveled). Her installation Take Care of Yourself debuted at the 52nd Venice Biennale (2007) and has been shown at a number of major museums since. Among Calle’s recent group exhibitions are Spies in the House of Art: Photography, Film, and Video, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2012); The Talent Show, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2010, traveled); and From Private to Public: Collections at the Guggenheim, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain (2009). The artist has received the Hasselblad Award, Göteborg, Sweden (2010), and the Spectrum Internationaler Preis für Fotografie der Stiftung Niedersachsen, Hanover, Germany (2000).