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Albert-Kahn Departmental Museum : Rio – Buenos Aires 1909. South American modernities


The Department of Hauts-de-Seine presents the new temporary exhibition of the Albert-Kahn Departmental Museum, Rio – Buenos Aires 1909. South American Modernities, which retraces a business trip that the banker and philanthropist Albert Kahn undertook in Argentina and Brazil from August to October 1909.

To close its inaugural sequence with the Autour du Monde exhibition, the museum invites you on a new journey to the origins. This journey is that of the transition to color, with in particular the first autochromes produced outside France at the instigation of Albert Kahn, in the period preceding the large-scale deployment of the Archives de la Planète project. The exhibition presents previously unseen images from this little-known part of the collection, in an immersive and educational journey that takes as its backdrop the urban explosion of these young South American nations resolutely turned towards Europe.

The “Journey to South America” ​​undertaken in 1909 by Albert Kahn, following his trip around the world (1908-1909), is singular in several respects. In the history of the collection, this is the first preserved evidence of the use of autochrome process outside France; and for the history of photography in Brazil, they are the first known color images of the country. However, these images – 683 shots, mainly black and white stereoscopic plates, a film, and around sixty autochrome plates – have long been poorly documented. No written testimony remains, and the identity of one or more operators remains unknown. The exhibition then weaves the thread of the journey and that of the investigation, bringing to the fore the work of historical, social and aesthetic contextualization carried out by the museum teams.

Between sensitive walk and image analysis, the narration is intended to be immersive, exploiting the power of wonder of color images, the many details of stereo images and the mystery that accompanies them. The visitor is placed at the heart of a search through a fund of documentary images, long silent, which thus find their voice.

The visitor trail follows the chronology of the trip and begins on board the ocean liner König Friedrich August. After this maritime introduction, visitors will discover, in a visual and sound wandering, astonishing portraits of the cities of South America transformed by the great urban works of the beginning of the 20th century and marked by a European influence modernity, such as a anticipation of the future development of the continent’s megalopolises.

The second sequence is a walk in images above Rio. It coincides with the appearance of color and presents the autochrome process as well as the different shooting techniques used to document the journey, between classicism and formal audacity.

The third part follows the stages of the return of the travelers who accompanied Albert Kahn, focusing on the documentary study of the collection, the attempts and successes of identification and geolocation of the images.

As a counterpoint to the scientific and historical work on the collection, and a thorough undertaking of image analysis, the exhibition offers an educational and mediation itinerary adapted to young audiences and a proposal for sound immersion reinforcing the sensitive dimension of the visit.


Curators: Delphine Allannic and Clément Poché


Rio – Buenos Aires 1909. Modernités sud-américaines
From June 27 to November 19, 2023
Musée départemental Albert-Kahn
2 Rue du Port
92100 Boulogne-Billancourt
M10 Pont de St-Cloud / T2 Parc de St-Cloud

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