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Arles 2019 : Variétés – Actes Sud


Variétés : Avant-garde, surrealism and photography, 1928-1930

Paul-Gustave Van Hecke, jack of all trades of the cultural life of the 1920’s in Belgium, was one of the most passionate promoters, animators and influential of avant-garde art of his time and a key figure in the international breakthrough of photography.

In May 1928, he founded with the surrealist E.L.T. Mesens the art magazine Variétés. Monthly illustrated magazine of L’Esprit Contemporain. Pioneering work because the journal is also devoted to unusual forms of art and culture and gives pride of place to all kinds of highly topical issues.

It is boldly approaching photography as a means of expression daring and innovative. In a suggestive game of surreal collages, the photos come together in combinations that are both surprising and strangely bizarre, so that Variétés stands out as a true anthology of New Photography as a modern artistic discipline and independent.

Van Hecke organizes in October 1928 the first photography exhibition in Europe in his Brussels gallery L’Epoque, with works – among others – by Man Ray, Eugène Atget, Aenne Biermann, André Kertész, Eli Lotar, László Moholy-Nagy, Bérénice Abbot and E.L.T. Mesens.

He is also very involved in the organization of the International Exhibition of Photography in July 1932 at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, considered the most important photography exhibition ever organized until then. The book reviews the most important series published in Variétés in combination with a selection of unique vintage prints of more than thirty modernist photographers gathered by Van Hecke as part of his activities as a gallerist, art dealer, Variétés director and exhibition organizer.

The collection is today part of the heritage of the Amsab Archives – Institute of Social History in Ghent, where it was discovered a few years ago by chance, scattered among the photographic archives of a newspaper that went bankrupt. it miraculously escaped destruction.


Exhibition ” Variétés, avant-garde magazine” during the Rencontres d’Arles,

July 1st to September 22nd, 2019, in the chapel of Saint-Martin du Méjan.



Avant-garde, surrealism and photography, 1928-1930

Under the supervision of Ronny Gobyn and Sam Stourdzé

With the contributions of Damarice Amao, Xavier Canonne, Hendrik Ollivier and Kim Robensyn

Size: 30.5 x 24.5cm / 386 pages / 450 photographs / related work / 79 €

Publication in bookstores October 2, 2019

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