Paris: Photography in 100 Masterpieces
© F.Teynard, courtesy Bibliothèque Nationale de France
© Edgar Degas, courtesy Bibliothèque Nationale de France
Nijinski par Druet, courtesy Bibliothèque Nationale de France
© Lee Friedlander, courtesy Bibliothèque Nationale de France
© Arturo Bragaglia, courtesy Bibliothèque Nationale de France
© E.J Marey, courtesy Bibliothèque Nationale de France
© A Peignot, courtesy Bibliothèque Nationale de France
© Linnaeus Tripe, courtesy Bibliothèque Nationale de France
© Lewis Baltz, courtesy Bibliothèque Nationale de France
© Eugène Durieu, courtesy Bibliothèque Nationale de France
© Emile Zola, courtesy Bibliothèque Nationale de France
© Eugene Atget, courtesy Bibliothèque Nationale de France
© Girault de Prangey, courtesy Bibliothèque Nationale de France
© Man Ray, courtesy Bibliothèque Nationale de France
An exhibition that questions the idea of a masterpiece.
The curator Sylvie Aubens and the collector Marc Pagneux have deliberately ignored the classic approaches to an exhibition. Don’t bother searching for a theme. The curators are very explicit about how this exhibition was prepared: they selected of 100 photographs which they consider masterpieces. These photographs aren’t necessarily the most famous ones, or the most beautiful or expensive, but those that are of great scientific, formal and historical interest.
Every photograph on display is taken from the vast collections of the Bibliothèque Nationale Française, so vast that it’s difficult to quantify. “A reasonable estimate would be five or six million prints,” they say. So their selection was, “a gamble.”
The first work on view is a photogenic drawing by William Henry Fox Talbot, “Leaf Vine” (1839); the last is a self-portrait by Emile Zola’s wife, Alexandrine, with her dog Pimpin. What do these photographs have in common?
The prints all had to be in exceptional condition, and there needed to be an interesting story behind how the photograph ended up in the collection. The legendary photograph of Gilles Caron taken on May 6, 1968, was acquired that September through the gallery Le Mur Ouvert, a testament to how curators are always on the watch.
The exhibition proceeds by aesthetic, formal and intellectual associations, as in the Gustave Le Gray’s “Vague Brisée” (1857) and Auguste-Rosalie Bisson’s “Mer de Glace (1860).
Another great innovation is to include commentary on the photographs, not by specialists, but by filmmakers, scientists, writers and even ministers. This is a real treat. We hear from Anish Kapoor, Roberto Alagna, David Lynch, Anne Pingeot, Isabelle Autissier, Olivier Py and Henri Puig, all brought together to discuss photography. And each, in his or her own way, reinvents the image, providing another story that goes beyond the collection and art history. Commenting on Weegee’s photograph “Lovers” (1954), where a woman wraps her arm around a man’s back, David Lynch writes: “She was telling him that a storm is coming.” And that’s how great stories are made!
La Photographie en 100 chefs-d’oeuvre
Until February 17th 2013
Curators : Sylvie Aubenas et Marc Pagneux
The exhibition is supported by the Fondation Louis Roederer. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the partnership between the Fondation and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. It was Frédéric Rouzard, the executive director of the Fondation, who commented Talbot's "Feuille de vigne."
Bibliothèque nationale de France
Galerie François 1er
La photographie en cent chefs-d’oeuvre
Sylvie Aubenas and Marc Pagneux, 2012