The Bemberg Foundation enters the “Latin paradises”

Toulouse. With “Latin Paradises: South American Stars”, the Bemberg Foundation inaugurates its spaces dedicated to temporary exhibitions and opens its programming to photography, absent from its collections. Alfred Pacquement, president of the Foundation, and Ana Debenedetti, its director, recall that its founder, Georges Bemberg (1915-2011), was born in Buenos Aires into a dynasty of industrialists of German origin who settled in Argentina. “A return to the origins”, they emphasize, for this exhibition of South American photography curated by Alexis Fabry and which brings together 200 images from the collection of Leticia and Stanislas Poniatowski. Started about twenty years ago, this photographic collection has become one of the reference collections concerning South America.

Glamour photography… and the spirit of resistance

The collector couple’s interest in this part of the American continent is linked to their respective family histories. “The princess was born in Argentina and is related to Georges Bemberg, and part of Stanislas Poniatowski’s family emigrated at the beginning of the 20th century.e century “, explains Alexis Fabry, curator of several exhibitions on this South American photographic scene. The Poniatowski collection has already been exhibited by him in Bogotá, Mexico City, New York and London as well as at the Rencontres de la photographie d’Arles in 2017. The theme of the portrait, chosen for the exhibition at the Bemberg Foundation, covers the period from the 1920s to the present day and reveals a little-known aspect of this photography: that of glamour. And in this glamour, a preponderant part is given to staged photography and/or the object of different interventions: collage, painting, tearing, etc.

From Cuba to Chile, via Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Peru, Brazil and Argentina, no fewer than 83 photographers or artists using images are gathered in these “Latin Paradises”. While there are familiar figures from this scene, such as the Chilean Paz Errázuriz, the Brazilian Miguel Rio Branco or the Mexican Graciela Iturbide, most of the photographers or artists are unknown. It is advisable to let your eye guide you, because the bias of privileging generational, formal or thematic associations without explaining them with an introductory text can confuse visitors who are unfamiliar or unfamiliar with this scene. Thus for this enigmatic portrait of the Mexican poet Pita Amor with her nails highlighted in bright red, an image taken by Simon Fléchine in 1950, or for this wall photographed in Cuba in the aftermath of the revolution by the Venezuelan Paolo Gasparini, a wall covered with images of stars, record covers, drawings, slogans, letters of the alphabet and a painted portrait of Antonio Maceo, hero of the war of independence.

This dive into the unknown tells stories of popular or underground celebrities. It also contains a critique of consumer society and the images produced by and for the press, television or advertising, particularly of women. The street and the media are fabulous terrains for the collection of these images that are torn off, pasted, diverted, painted, photocopied using meager means. At night, discos and transvestites distil the freedoms taken, the resistances and the struggles led by artists, such as Agustín Martínez Castro in Mexico, or Leonora Vicuña in Chile during the dictatorship.

“In South American photography, there is a great porosity between high and low culture. There has never been an overhang in relation to popular culture. On the contrary, there is a desire to summon it, to be inspired by it. A characteristic that we find in literature and in the plastic arts in the broad sense, underlines Alexis Fabry. The other characteristic is that many of these countries have experienced dictatorship, or even a hegemonic party as in Mexico. Many photographers have documented this repression and developed other work in parallel.

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