© Florian Kleinefenn

Meir Eshel, the eldest of Adele and Elie Eshel's four children, was born on December 26, 1964, in the city of Ashdod. Adele, Meir's mother, was a housewife, and Elie, his father, was an industrial electrician. Eshel spent most of his childhood in the city of Ashdod; from a young age, he was portrayed as a charismatic boy known for his courage and daring when he led the neighborhood children on adventures in the area, the port breakwater, and the pristine dunes that surrounded the city. Due to the intention to include him in a high school drawing study program (which he did not want), he decided at the age of 15 to move to the Israel Air Force (IAF) Technological College in Haifa. His parents supported the move, mainly due to their fear of it degenerating into incidents of violence and crime in the city. Despite the difficulty in gaining authority and discipline, Eshel graduated successfully. In 1982, he enlisted in the IDF and served about five phantom planes at the Air Force base in the Hatzerim.

Upon his release from the army in 1985–1987, Eshel lived in the dunes on the beach south of Ashdod, where he built himself a wooden hut ("husha"; arbic name for hut) and made a living from making jewelry at the beach. Eshel had a habit of visiting the Dead Sea and Sinai's deserted beaches and staying there for long periods. In a later interview, Avshalom described this period: "I built my first house when I was twenty: I was discharged from the army in a terrible condition and went to the desert. [...] I did not know anything about art then, I only knew the name Picasso, but I never saw his works. [...] For about a year, I lived with Bedouins in Sinai; I had a fantasy about living in the desert. I believed I could do it until I realized it did not satisfy me "[1]. From this period, a small number of works he created remain. These works carry a bricolage character. In his work CULTURE (1986), Eshel created models of a knife, fork, spoon, and spoon made of wood and paper, hung with a wire inside a cardboard box as if they were ethnographic finds.

In 1987, with the help of money he saved from the sale of the jewelry he created, Eshel flew to Paris, where he planned to save some more money and start a backpacking trip. At first, he lived in his uncle's house (his mother's brother) Maurice Amsellem and worked in renovation of houses and apartments. He soon moved into the apartment of his uncle Jacques Ohayon, his father's brother, an architectural researcher. Through Ohayon, Eshel met important artists who were deeply impressed by his personality, including Christian Boltansky and Annette Message, for whom he also served as a photography model for her works. Eshel's plan to travel the world was delayed; He remained in Paris and began studying art at the Paris-Sergey High School of the Arts (ENSAPC) and attending Boltanski's weekly class at the National High School of the Arts (ENSB-A). During this time, he adopted the name "Absalon", which was given to him as a nickname by one of his uncle's friends, due to the great resemblance between him and the figure of the biblical Absalom, as it appeared in a well-known work (the writer has no certainty as to the identity of the work).

Absalon first participated in a group exhibition held in 1987 at the Villa Alésia in Paris. Between 1987 and 1991, Absalon created a series of works that dealt with the arrangement of objects in a given space. In his early works from the series, Absalon used ready-made objects that were painted or sprinkled with gypsum powder. For example, in the installation SOLITARY ROOM (first version; 1987), he presented a living space emptied of every personal dimension. The walls and basic furniture left in it were painted white, which gave the space a monastic look. From 1988 onwards, Absalon began to create such objects and objects himself. In my conversations with Absalon he has often questioned how we take for granted the shape of everyday objects in our lives. For example, he asked, "Do a fork, knife, table, bed, etc. have to look like we're used to?" In the PROPOSAL FOR A HABITAT (1990), he created a white container in which geometric elements made of wood, cardboard, and plaster and painted white were arranged.

In 1989, Jacques Ohayon died of the HIV virus. Absalon, who tool care of his uncle, soon discovered that he too was carrying the HIV virus. In 1990 he met the artist Marie-Ange Guilleminot, both of whom participated in a group exhibition in Clisson. Despite his illness, we played for his partner until his last day.

In 1991 he moved to live and work in an atelier that had previously served the sculptor Jacques Lifshitz. This is a three-story house, built in three spaces, designed by the architect Le Corbusier-Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris in the area of ​​Boulogne in Paris. The space was made available to him by a relative lawyer named François Lasry,  who wanted to preserve the building according to the way Absalon interprets the architect's work. Absalon described his new home as: "a thinking space (the tallest and smallest), a creative space, and a display space." He renovated the space by emptying the entire contents of the house, spraying plaster on the built walls, and furnishing it with a minimal number of pieces of furniture - a bed, a chair, and two stools for the guests. At that time, AIDS illness had already broken out in Absalon's body, and he would later describe to me the renovation as an action guided by a feeling of running out of time.

Knowing of his illness, which he had hidden from most of his acquaintances and family members, Absalon began to create a large-scale project that included the construction of six residential houses he had designed for himself. These monastic houses, which he called "cells", were intended to be located in six city centers around the world (Paris, Zurich, New York, Tel Aviv, Frankfurt and Tokyo) and to constitute, he said, the "tailor-made" house. Absalon testified that the anonymous design of his architecture was intended to create alienation "until my existence in it becomes more real than ever. [...] By the very fact that I will live in it, I will create disorder in the structure.

Encouraged by the winner of the Israel Prize, the curator Yona Fischer, Absalon's first exhibition in his homeland, PROPOSALS FOR HABITATION (first version; 1990), was presented at the Ika Brown Gallery in Jerusalem in 1990. In 1992, his solo exhibition was presented at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. The work PROPOSALS FOR HABITAT (fifth version; 1992) presented a structure of square spaces connected by passage pipes and a conceivable configuration of tunnels. In addition, the exhibition CELL NO. 1 (1992) was displayed. 1: 1 according to meticulous plans and presented as a whole in the last solo exhibition in Absalon's life, at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, in 1993. However, due to his death, the construction of only two "cells", made for living was accomplished. CELL NO. 1, which was supposed to be located in the third district of Paris, was completed, including electricity and water infrastructure. The Israel Museum in Jerusalem later purchased the cell to place it permanently in the museum plaza. "Cell No. 2" Absalon did not have time to finish independently, but his team completed it according to his instructions in 1993, shortly after Absalon's death (Hauser Wirt Collection, Zurich).

On October 10, 1993, Avshalom died of an HIV-related illness and was laid to rest in the Ashdod cemetery near his parents' home.

In 2010 a retrospective exhibition of his works was presented at the KW Center for Contemporary Art in Berlin (Kunst-Werke Berlin). The exhibition was also shown at the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam, The Netherlands (2012), and the Tel Aviv Museum (2013). In 2021 another retrospective exhibition called "Absalon Absalon" was held at the CAPC Museum, Bordeaux, France.

On May 29, 2022, the Dokaviv Festival in Tel Aviv premiered the film "The Seven Years of Avshalom", directed by David Ofek and Amit Azaz. The film describes my journey through the experiences of Absalon during his life and works in Paris.

Dani Eshel

Solo Exhibitions

  • 1989– Ivry Contemporary Art Center (CREDAC), Ivry-sur-Seine, France (catalogue)
  • 1990– Sainte-Croix Museum, Poitiers, France (catalogue)
  • 1990– Proposals for Habitation (Scale 1:1), Artists Studio, Aika Brown Gallery, Jerusalem
  • 1990– Cells, Galerie Crousel-Robelin / Bama, Paris
  • 1991– Compartments, Kunstlerhaus, Stuttgart
  • 1991– Compartments, Galerie Crousel-Robelin / Bama, Paris
  • 1992– Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv (catalogue)
  • 1992– Galerie Etienne Ficheroulle, Brussels
  • 1992– A Universe without Objects, FNAC, Hôtel des Arts, Paris
  • 1992– Kaye Pesblum Gallery, Helsinki
  • 1993– Galerie Luis Campana, Cologne
  • 1993– "Cells," Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (catalogue)
  • 1993– "Battle," Galerie Crousel-Robelin / Bama and Jean-René Fleurieu, Paris
  • 1993– Carmelitenkloster, Frankfurt
  • 1994– Galerie Crousel-Robelin / Bama, Paris
  • 1994– "Cells," Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
  • 1994– De Appel, Amsterdam (catalogue)
  • 1994– Carré d'Art, Musée d'Art Contemporain, Nîmes, France (catalogue)
  • 1994– "Noises," Chisenhale Gallery, London
  • 1994– "Disposition," Château d'Aulteribe, Sermentizon, France
  • 1994– Attitudes Gallery, Geneva
  • 1995– "Cells," Chisenhale Gallery, London
  • 1995– "Cells," Kunstverein, Hamburg
  • 1996– "Cells," Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin
  • 1996– "Absalon: Complete Video Works," Oriel Gallery, Cardiff
  • 1997– Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris
  • 1997– L'Institut d'Art et Techniques de Bretagne Occidentale (IATBO), Brest, France
  • 1997– Kunsthalle Zurich

Group Exhibitions

  • 1988– Atelier du Parvis de Beaubourg, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris
  • 1989– "Pas à côté pas n'importe où (Not a side, not anywhere)," Villa Arson, Nice
  • 1989– "Carte blanche à Jean de Loisy (Free card for Jean de Loisy)," Centre d'Art Contemporain d'Ivry (CREDAC), Ivry-sur-Seine
  • 1990– "Resistance: Absalon, Art in Ruins, Véronique Joumard, Serge Kliaving," Musée Sainte-Croix, Poitiers (catalogue)
  • 1990– "Lignes de mire 1 (Lines of Sight)," Fondation Cartier, Jouy-en-Josas, France
  • 1990– "Le Cinq (the Five)," Tramway, Glasgow; curator: Jean de Loisy (catalogue)
  • 1990– "VII Ateliers Internationaux des Pays de Loire" Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain (FRAC); curator: Jean-François Taddei (catalogue; text: Hans-Ulrich Obrist)
  • 1991– "Collection of the CAPC Museum," Musée d’Art Contemporain (CAPC), Bordeaux
  • 1991– "Movements 1 & 2," Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; curator: Jean-Pierre Bordaz (catalogue)
  • 1992– Documenta 9, Kassel; curator: Jan Hoet (catalogue)
  • 1992– "New Acquisitions," Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations, Paris
  • 1992– Third International Istanbul Biennale; curator: Vasif Kortun
  • 1993– "L’Image dans le tapis (The Image in the Carpet)," Arsenale, Venice Biennale; curator: Jean de Loisy (catalogue)
  • 1993– "Hôtel Carlton Palace, Chambre 763," 207 boulevard Raspail, Paris; curator: Hans-Ulrich Obrist
  • 1993– "Lieux de la vie moderne (Places of Modern Life)," Le Quartier
  • 1993– Centre d’Art Contemporain, Quimper, France
  • 1993– "Le milieu du monde (The Middle of the World)," Villa Saint
  • 1994– "Hors limites (Out of Bounds)," Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; curator: Jean de Loisy (catalogue
  • 1994– "Même si c’est la nuit (Even if it is Night)," Musée d’Art Contemporain (CAPC), Bordeaux; curator: Jean-Louis Froment
  • 1994– "Le saut dans le vide (A Leap into the Void)," Artists House, Moscow (catalogue)
  • 1994– "Beats," Collection de la Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations, Belém Cultural Centre, Lisbon
  • 1994– "Un papillon sur la roue (A Butterfly on a Wheel)," Espace d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, Toulouse
  • 1995– Rudiments d’un musée possible 2 (Rudiments for a Possible Museum 2)," Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain (MAMCO), Geneva
  • 1995– "Currents ‘95: Familiar Places," Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), Boston

Cell n°2 (second version)
Cell n°2 (second version)
Proposals for habitat (fifth version)
Cell n°4 (first version)
Cell n°5 (second version)
Cell n°2 (first version)
Mr Leloup private life
Cell n°1 (second version)
Cell n°5 (first version)
Cell n°1 (second version)
Cell n°6 (second version)
Stool X
Cell n°4 (second version)
Cell n°4 (second version)
War band
Cell n°6 (second version)
Cell n°5 (second version)
Cell n°3 (second version)
Cell n°1 (first version)