Les Rencontres d’Arles

7 July-13 September 2009

Les Rencontres d’Arles turns 40 this year, and to celebrate the photography festival is hosting a total of 60 exhibitions, under the rubrics “40 Years of Rencontres” and “40 Years of Ruptures”, directed by François Hébel. The exhibitions look to the history of the festival, with shows dedicated to key figures in the development of Les Rencontres.

US photographer Nan Goldin is the presiding matriarch of the festival as the “Special Guest” for “40 Years of Ruptures”, with her own work on display as well as works by others that she has chosen. Her 1986 work The Ballad of Sexual Dependency—a no-holds-barred visual diary of the sex- and drug-fuelled lives of those close to her—is on show at the Atelier de Mécanique, and Sisters, Saints and Sibyls—Goldin’s 2004 tribute to her sister who committed suicide—is at the Église des Frères-Prêcheurs. Also on show here is Goldin’s personal collection of photography, including works by Weegee and Pierre Molinier. She has invited a group of 11 living photographers to exhibit as part of her curated show, “Ça Me Touche”, at the Atelier de Mécanique, including Boris Mikhailov, J.H. Engström, Annelies Strba, David Armstrong and Lisa Ross. Also on display as part of “40 Years of Ruptures” are a series of solo shows in various venues, including Duane Michals at the Palais de l’Archevêché and UK-based photographers Brian Griffin and Martin Parr at the Atelier de Maintenance. Also showing here is the shocking “Without Sanctuary”—photographs and postcards taken as souvenirs of African-American lynchings in the US, from the collection of the Centre for Civic and Human Rights in Atlanta.

The other strand of the festival, “40 Years of Rencontres”, has solo shows of the French photographers Willy Ronis and Lucien Clergue (a founder of Les Rencontres), a show dedicated to the publisher, curator and film producer Robert Delpire, and an exhibition of images and text curated by Jean-Claude Lemagny, former chief curator in the prints and photography department of the French National Library. There is also an exhibition dedicated to the history of Les Rencontres, “Sweet Dreams of Memory”, showing documentary material, photography, projections and films at the Atelier de Maintenance. Other shows associated with Les Rencontres include “Roni Horn aka Roni Horn” (fresh from its showing at Tate Modern, 25 February-25 May) at the Collection Lambert in nearby Avignon.

This article was published in The Art Newspaper, July-August 2009