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Bettina Rheims at the Quai Branly: "You're finished, sweet figures"

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Female photographer of the woman, it is often said of Bettina Rheims. Women is more accurate. Of women who are not reduced to an allegory of beauty or desire, as we have seen so much since the invention of photography.
His people are fighting against the reduction of the feminine to a body constrained by dogmas: Femen defending their freedom. They refuse that the distinction of the feminine and the masculine cannot be transgressed: transsexual (le)s of the Gender studies. They escape from the imagery in which the entertainment industry freezes them: heroines who don't try to seduce, but to assert themselves for who they are, each according to her life, her age, her history. They are flesh-and-blood beings, with their distinctive looks and signs, and not perfect effigies or muses.
 

Blthough the title of the exhibition is borrowed from him, it does not celebrate the Latin poet Petronius. This fatal phrase is tattooed on the skin of one of the women Bettina Rheims photographed for her recent series Naked War. Sweet figures, these? Heroines rather, to take from another of the artist's series, of which we will see here the secret part, the polaroids never shown before. We see there less softness than intensity: terribly living beings struggling with a naked place, a kind of rock and their own bodies.
 
Heroine Shalom Harlow Polaroid Series No 1, February 2005, Paris © Bettina Rheims, courtesy Galerie Xippas
 
Femen and Heroines were thus destined to join together, to affirm together the strength and dignity of the feminine - not to be confused with what is commonly understood by "femininity", which is only a social and sexual stereotype. Embodied in sculpted bodies and faces, these qualities are also those of other heroines: the African works in which the artist made the companions of her own, the time of this conversation between photographs and sculptures.
Bettina Rheims takes hold of the stereotypes that dominate the representation of women, destabilizes, distorts and ultimately destroys them. She does not invent icons, as they say today, but celebrates real beings - as real as those created by the artists of Africa whose statues and masks join them here: terribly present bodies, intensely alive faces. The photographer's studio, where the polaroids of the Heroines were taken, is populated by other sculptures from Africa and Oceania, sisters of those here. For here, as in her studio, women from all over the world converse freely with each other.

 
Located on the central mezzanine floor of the museum's collections plateau, l'Atelier Martine Aublet is a space of freedom in the heart of the museum. Scenographed like a cabinet of curiosities, it hosts three times a year new installations that highlight the museum's new acquisitions, non-Western contemporary photography, an invited outdoor collection or a carte blanche to contemporary artists, personalities or cultural and scientific institutions that are partners of the museum. These specific projects make it possible to create unexpected events.
The Foundation was created in 2011 by Bruno Roger to extend Martine Aublet's action in the artistic and educational field. Art and culture have always been at the centre of Martine Aublet's life. An eclectic knowledge and a sharp aesthetic sense have guided her throughout her journey rich in encounters and favourites. The Martine Aublet Foundation has financed the permanent scenography of the Atelier that bears her name and helps develop each of the installations presented there.
In addition, the Foundation supports educational and research projects through scholarships in ethnography, ethnology and art history, and an annual prize for a book or work on non-Western cultures.
The Atelier Martine Aublet's facilities are designed with the support of the Fondation Martine Aublet, under the aegis of the Fondation de France.
 
Exhibition Bettina RHEIMS. "You are finished, sweet figures" at the Musée du Quai Branly - Jacques Chirac from 20 March to 3 June 2018
Atelier Martine Aublet
Commissioner's Office : Bettina Rheims, photographer and Philippe Dagen, historian and art critic
 
Header photo : "Heroines" Renée Dorski, Polaroid N°1, March 2005, Paris - © Bettina Rheims, courtesy Galerie Xippas
 
 

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