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23 July 2015

Daring photography, Rencontres d’Arles 2015



In 1965, the birth of the first public photography collection in a French fine art museum took place in Arles at the Musée Réattu. Jean‐Maurice Rouquette, curator, and Lucien Clergue, photographer, dared to launch an avant‐garde project which would lead to the Rencontres d’Arles festival, the École Nationale de Photographie (ENSP), and also to the widespread recognition of photography as an art form in France.

The 2015 exhibition celebrates the progress made since then and takes us back to the beginnings of this unique collection’s remarkable history. From its very first year, the collection was composed of 400 prints chosen by photographers and collectors motivated by the challenges of a museum project. This stance asserted the rightful place of photography as art which, as though taken for granted, had been instigated at the Musée Réattu, in the continuum of the great painting of history achieved by Jacques Réattu.

On 28 May 1965, the Musée Réattu presided over the birth of an eighth art in the making and offered its walls to the young collection. Arles then discovered Ansel Adams, Richard Avedon, Cecil Beaton, Peter Beard, Robert Doisneau, Lucien Hervé, Izis, Germaine Krull, Dora Maar, Man Ray, Paul Strand, and Edward Weston, to mention just a few. In the decades that followed, they were joined by Brassaï, Edouard Boubat, Henri Cartier‐Bresson, Imogen Cunningham, Mimmo Jodice, André Kertész, William Klein, sarah Moon, Bernard Plossu, Willy Ronis, and Jeanloup Sieff…

Since then, the collection has grown and 5,000 prints now shed light on the history of a photographic practice constantly being enriched by new acquisitions, be they donations from the rencontres d’Arles collection, public commissions, or loans. The ever‐increasing expansion of this department has consumed the museum’s identity and calls for an appraisal through a selection of 200 photographs which express the state of a mutating art in an exhibition driven by a fundamental question: What does photography bring to art? From narrative photography to the frivolity of colour, the radical nature of images is evident and allows the future and the development of this collection to be evoked. An installation by Olivier Roller concludes the exhibition.

Pascale Picard, Director of the Musée Réattu


Exhibition curator: Pascale Picard,
Assisted by Andy Neyrotti.
Exhibition produced by the City of Arles. Scenography: Agence Nathalie Crinière, Paris.

Graphic communication: Digital Deluxe, Arles.

An exhibition catalogue will be published in july 2015 by Silvana Editoriale Milan.

Publication: Oser la photographie. Cinquante ans d’une collection d’avant-garde à Arles, Silvana Editoriale, 2015.

Musée Réattu