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Les Douches La Galerie : Jean-Claude Gautrand : The Assassination of Baltard


Les Douches La Galerie presents until May 27 the exhibition Jean-Claude Gautrand: L’assassinat de Baltard.

“A few years later I still remember the crashing of the beams collapsing in a cloud of dust eclipsing, for a moment, the rays of the sun.
I can still hear, interpreted by a resident of the district, the last post accompanying the collapse of one of the pavilions. This demolition which brought down a veritable iron basilica allowed me to create a series of images where light and matter combine to compose a visual poem which is also a cry of revolt”. – Jean-Claude Gautrand

Jean-Claude Gautrand has never ceased to testify in photographs and in texts of what is no longer, of what is doomed to disappear. Born in 1932, in the North of France, he traveled relatively little. He mainly photographed Paris, its changes, and was interested in places that bear the mark of history: the martyr village of Oradour-sur-Glane, the Struthof camp, the end of the mining region, the blockhouses on the Atlantic coast…

L’assassinat de Baltard immortalizes the destruction of the Halles of the architect Baltard, a huge market nestled in the heart of the capital whose glass and iron structures disappeared in the dust and summer light. Jean-Claude Gautrand is the only photographer to have followed all the destruction. Imagine the Prefect of Paris authorizing the demolition of the Grand Palais. Unthinkable! Yet it was a similar drama that played out in the torpor of August 1971. And this despite numerous protests and demonstrations by Parisians. Twelve pavilions, designed by the architect Victor Baltard in 1856 and made up of iron structures and topped with glass roofs, were to be destroyed… These jewels of 19th century industrial architecture housed a gigantic wholesale market: the famous Halles which gave their name to this district described by Emile Zola in Le Ventre de Paris. This market was later  moved to La Villette and Rungis. Jean-Claude Gautrand followed the entire project, from the demolition of the first pavilions to the re-establishment of one of the buildings in Nogent-sur-Marne, the Baltard Pavilion. Using a Rolleiflex camera and black and white films, he went there every day, defying access bans, climbing on the roofs of buildings, to testify to what he called L’assassinat de Baltard which was the subject of a book published by Éditions Formule 13 in 1972. This work received the Grand Prix du Livre from the city of Arles the same year. In the early 2000s, it was selected by Martin Parr and Gerry Badger in the volume devoted to Protest books within what has become a bible for great photo book enthusiasts, Le livre de photographies : une histoire.

Sylvie Hughes
Curator of exhibitions


Jean-Claude Gautrand : L’assassinat de Baltard
Until May 27, 2023
Les Douches La Galerie
5, rue Legouvé
75010 Paris

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