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Arles 2023 : The Diamond : The Florence & Damien Bachelot Collection at the Réattu Museum


It’s been so long since I’ve seen a real exhibition of real photographic works!

For the context, originally, there is the existence of a collection of photographs which brings together a large number of exceptional, or at the very least, fascinating shots. All these images, of excellent quality, have been patiently collected by Florence and by Damien Bachelot, according to their own criteria as collectors. Firstly, the photographs acquired are not intended to be deposited in a safe in the expectation of insane capital gains. Secondly, the intrinsic quality of the works, in their production and in the work actually deployed, is essential. Third, the acquisition of a work is not induced by the subject photographed, nor by the author of the creation, it essentially results from the work itself. It is the symbiosis between the subject and his photographer, at a “t” moment in particular technical conditions, which allows the image to express itself fully with its sensuality. The work by sound, or by its messages, before any other more or less fashionable or remunerative criteria. Florence and by Damien Bachelot are truly admirable and generous collectors in offering, to the widest possible public, the contemplation of their acquisitions.

Stage two is the involvement of the Musée Réattu, always at the forefront in the hearts of lovers of photographic techniques. The museum’s own dream collection and its ongoing commitment to quality photographic exhibitions testify to this. A bond was created between the two protagonists which could only be unavoidable. Florence and Damien Bachelot entrusted around 10% of their collection for the first time to a museum (after an initial collaboration with the Villa Medici). The Réattu Museum, for its part, has accepted a few exceptions in its museum designs. The result is more than convincing thanks to the successful two-headed curating of Françoise Docquiert and Andy Nerotti. A classy scenography with some judicious escapes in certain rooms of the permanent exhibitions. For the rest, very beautiful original prints presented in dedicated rooms allow a reading and a perfect dialogue with the images proposed. It is faultless, to be discovered.

Everything is there and this exhibition – in its coherence – is really very beautiful. It stands out apart from the new fashions with their delirious scenographies, the abandoned graphic hierarchy, the appalling prints (both digital and analog), and the various introspections – pseudo-literary – explanatory.

Point number three brings us to the essence of the exhibition: the hanging masterpieces. Whether they come from a time that none of us could have known or whether they are recent, the photographs on display are all of excellent original quality. The heterogeneity of the authors and the techniques used is sublimated by the homogeneity of the theme concentrated on the humanist portrait. Each test in its personal expression imposes itself by its “aura” without ever disturbing the influence of its neighbours. All the characteristic of the masterpiece which rests on the availability of its admirer. It all started well with the initial choices of the two collectors for the enrichment of their collection.

If you pass by Arles, or nearby, take an hour or two, or even more if you like, to discover these photographic images which have entered, which enter or will certainly enter the Pantheon of Art. The portraits from the collection of Florence and Damien Bachelot are well on their way to becoming the jewel of Arles 2023. If it is impossible for you to plan a visit, the very beautiful catalog of the exhibition is up to the occasion. and surely accessible from the Réattu Museum bookshop.

PS: After my last article on Jacques Léonard, installed on the second floor of the museum, all the scenography was reinstalled as initially planned. In this new presentation, the photographs take on all the scope they deserve.

These two flagship exhibitions of Arles 2023 are at the essential Réattu Museum, always at the forefront for Photography.

Thierry Maindrault


Musée Réattu
10 rue du Grand Prieuré
13200 ARLES – France
phone + 33 4 90 49 37 58

until October 01, 2023
open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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