Born 1964, Saint-Etienne, France
Lives and works in Paris, France
Jean-Michel Othoniel has said, “A necklace is like the shadow of a missing person.” This is a pertinent phrase for an artist who makes fanciful large-scale sculptures and installations out of glass bead “necklaces” that often hang from ceilings or are draped over other forms. Othoniel has been working with glass since the early 1990s, developing his trademark strands. He gained international attention after his widely praised installation at Documenta IX in Kassel in 1992 where he displayed work made out of wax and sulfur, malleable materials inspired by his interest in the body and the radical traumas of HIV/AIDS that had exploded into global consciousness in the 1980s. The glass works break from those earlier media but continue to reference the body. They stand in for a form that is no longer there. For all of their references to absence, Othoniel’s necklaces tend to look luxurious and decorative, beyond human scale and full of enchanting light and color that makes them seem like aspirational objects of desire.
Jean-Michel Othoniel graduated from the École Nationale Supérieure d’Arts, Cergy-Pontoise, France in 1988. He has held residencies at Villa Medici, Rome, Italy in 1996 and at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston in 2011. A mid-career retrospective opened at the Brooklyn Museum in 2012. He is currently working on a fountain sculpture of his glass beads to be installed in the Water Theater grove at Versailles.