E-Photo
Issue #207  9/22/2014
 
Changes and Challenges at Rencontres d'Arles Photography Festival

By Gisèle Tavernier

A model of Gehry's tower, the future Arts Resource center, Luma-Arles campus.  (photo courtesy Luma-Arles)
A model of Gehry's tower, the future Arts Resource center, Luma-Arles campus. (photo courtesy Luma-Arles)

Several 19th-century renovated railway workshops next to an Arts Resource Center under construction and designed by Californian architect Frank Gehry called the "Parc des Ateliers" in Arles in the South of France turned into a theater of territorial conflicts during "Parade", the 45th edition of the Rencontres d'Arles international photography festival. The festival was just held from July 7 to September 21.

The Parc, hosting approximately 25 out of the overall 60 exhibitions at Rencontres, has attracted thousands of visitors every summer since 1986. This year, they also came to see and photograph the emerging cultural campus of the Luma Foundation headed by Swiss-born billionaire Maja Hoffmann, a major partner of the Rencontres d'Arles.

Last November the heiress of Roche pharmaceuticals, who grew up in Arles, acquired 20 acres (10 ha) in the Parc des Ateliers for €10 million (approximately $13 million) to set up this campus with an aim to stimulate a gloomy local economy. As a result, the Rencontres d'Arles is now seeking new venues. Moreover, the sale of the entire Parc by the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur (PACA) Regional Council caused a clash with François Hébel, then director of the festival (successively in 1986 and 1987, and since 2002); indeed, he had had the intention to develop the brand 'Rencontres d'Arles' into a Centre Mondial de la Photographie (international Center for Photography), by purchasing some of the buildings next to the LUMA campus. His project was turned down by the public authorities, while both Actes Sud, a major French publishing house and the new Ecole Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie (ENSP), the National School of Photography, decided to move to the public zone of the Parc in 2018.

Virtually disowned, François Hébel, who, during his 12-year tenure, tripled the audience of the Rencontres, stepped down. Sam Stourdzé, former French director of the Musée de l'Elysée (the photography museum in Lausanne, Switzerland), will take over on October 1st. Representatives for the Luma campus maintain that it will continue to host the summer exhibitions for the Rencontres for a symbolic rental fee. Whether or not Stourdzé signs an agreement with Luma-Arles that would allow him to develop the project with total artistic freedom, he will have to reinvent the format for the event. The show, as they say, must go on.

At the Ateliers, the building site of F.Gehry's tower. (photo by Gisèle Tavernier)
At the Ateliers, the building site of F.Gehry's tower. (photo by Gisèle Tavernier)

"Arles has always been a theater for me. Every year for 15 years, it becomes a citywide stage. How to leave this stage, if not theatrically? The tone was set for high drama (thwarted love, betrayal, political intrigue, buffoonery, epic) rather than light comedy. So it was natural to offer a last parade to some of the many friends who have shaped the recent history of the festival: (Magnum photographer) Raymond Depardon, (Arles-born couturier) Christian Lacroix, (British photographer and photobook collector) Martin Parr, (Arles photographer) Lucien Clergue, and (Dutch collector of vernacular photography) Erik Kessels. We also wanted to invite artists and curators never seen before at the Rencontres," François Hébel said about this year's "Parade", a rather diminished edition comprising 50 eclectic exhibitions and 32 guests artists, with mixed results.

This funny Harlequin program paid tribute to Lucien Clergue, co-founder of the festival, on the occasion of his 80th birthday, while featuring eight rarely seen private collections; forgotten autochromes, "Kids at War", documenting children who acted out the Great War in the streets of Paris in 1915 by French reporter Léon Gimpel; "Album", a series of very large postcards montages by Brazilian artist Vik Muniz; and "David Bailey's Stardust", a confused retrospective of this figure of the Swinging London period with his images of icons from the worlds of fashion and arts.

Where to display the whole program? With this pivotal 2014 edition, the issue of venues was of crucial concern. To replace the lost spaces at the Ateliers, the city of Arles lent the festival an empty four-story office building. But the venue was so unattractive that the low-budget scenography tried to cover it up by plunging visitors into the dark. They were given a flashlight to view the shows which turned out to be laborious when trying to explore "The Chinese Photobooks", an exhibition of several-hundred books dealing with Maoist propaganda collected by Martin Parr and WassinkLundgren, or "Greetings from the Colonies", a sexist collection of French colonial postcards.

However, the festival also had some good surprises in store. From Karl Blossfeld to Richard Avedon to Ai Weiwei, the faultless exhibition "Typology, Taxonomy and Seriality" featured a selection of striking sets from the German Walther collection in which classic masters of photography met contemporary African and Chinese artists. "Foule" [Crowds] an exhibition of approximately 200 ironic photographs of U.S. corporate staffs, bands, clubs, fraternities produced in the first half the 20th century and collected by New York collector William M. Hunt interacted with Claude Hudelot's rare collection of panoramas representing people from the People's Republic of China. Behind these deceptive images of social cohesion, the dramatic portraits of people in mass negated their individuality.


A BLACK COMEDY

Aurélie de Lanlay,  general manager of the Rencontres;  Hervé Schiavetti, the Mayor of Arles; Jean-Noël Jeanneney, president of the Rencontres; Sam Stourdzé, new director of the Rencontres; François Hébel, director of the Rencontres. (photo by Gisèle Tavernier)
Aurélie de Lanlay, general manager of the Rencontres; Hervé Schiavetti, the Mayor of Arles; Jean-Noël Jeanneney, president of the Rencontres; Sam Stourdzé, new director of the Rencontres; François Hébel, director of the Rencontres. (photo by Gisèle Tavernier)

Every year the opening week of the Festival brings in photographers, curators and professionals from all around the world. The festival officials are used to posing for the press together with local business, government and institutional players, who also happen to be members of its board. But this year, their forced smiles in the group photographs barely concealed the backstage tensions. Established since 1970 as a non-profit association, the board of the Rencontres d'Arles is comprised of figures, such as historian Jean-Noël Jeanneney, president of the Rencontres since 2009, communist Mayor of Arles and co-president of the Board Hervé Schiavetti, President of the Luma Foundation and former Treasurer Maja Hoffmann, Director of Actes Sud publishing and Board Secretary Françoise Nyssen, President of the PACA regional Council Michel Vauzelle, a representative from the Ministry of Culture and Communication, the three co-founders of the festival including photographer Lucien Clergue, as well as Rémy Fenzy, President of ENSP--among others. The results were photographs that more closely resembled images from a black comedy.

As usual, most of the exhibitions at the Rencontres are co-produced with French and foreign museums and institutions. According to the French mixed public/private system, its 2014 budget amounted to €6.4 million, or about $8.3 million dollars: 45% from public funding, 38% from festival revenues (sales of tickets and branded products) and 17% from private partners. Since last November, this financial support has begun to seize up.

While nearly 100,000 visitors and participants now flock to Arles throughout the summer, the festival was in deficit when François Hébel, then director of Magnum, was appointed in 2002.

"His predecessor, who claimed that 'the future is digital', conceived such avant-garde exhibitions that the public was not coming any more. François Hébel understood that the festival had to remain popular," said Hervé Schiavetti, who appointed him at the time.

So since 2002, Hébel has broadened the scope of the festival, introducing among others Nan Goldin and cutting-edge Indian or Chinese photography, while developing meetings, lectures, book signings, symposia, workshops, portfolio reviews, and a Fall session for local kids called "Back to School with Images", involving 10,000 students and 330 classes.

The Discovery Prize Award Given by the Luma Foundation to Chinese photographer Kechun Zhang (photo courtesy of the Rencontres d'Arles)
The Discovery Prize Award Given by the Luma Foundation to Chinese photographer Kechun Zhang (photo courtesy of the Rencontres d'Arles)

After the launch of the new format, the number of visitors soared from 9,000 in 2001 to 96,000 in 2013. In addition to public funding, Hébel and François Barré, former president of the Rencontres, initiated contacts with new potential patrons in 2002, and the name of Maja Hoffmann soon came up. Born to three generations of patrons and former assistant to Lucien Clergue in her youth, Maja Hoffmann, through her Swiss Luma Foundation dedicated to support contemporary art, decided to fund the new "Discovery Prize" worth €25,000 (about $32,500 U.S.). The Award is granted to a photographer or an artist whose work has recently been discovered or who deserves international recognition. A second award was established thanks to the Luma Foundation in 2010. The generous patron also helped fund concerts by such rock legends as Lou Reed and Patti Smith during the screenings in a packed Théâtre Antique during the opening week of the Festival. In those days, the Luma Foundation and the Rencontres were on excellent terms.

In 2007 in the process of getting advice from François Hébel, Maja Hoffman decided to create the Arles-Luma Photography Foundation at the Parc des Ateliers, where the Regional Council was renovating a historical construction, the Grande Halle.

"In 2008, the project of the Luma Foundation involving the acquisition of the workshops was accepted by the public authorities", emphasized Pierre Collet, press officer for the Luma-Arles campus.

On the occasion of the 2010 edition, Maja Hoffmann officially presented the entire architectural project, including a new tower designed by Frank Gehry. This multidisciplinary building named the Arts Resource Center is due to become "a vibrant venue where artists, researchers and creators in every field would come to seek, create, produce, develop, present, meet and exchange with each other or with the public ideas, projects, impulses, works and exhibitions" in a public garden designed by Bas-Smets, according to Maja Hoffmann.

The innovative project that she describes as "an utopia" was then applauded and supported by Frederic Mitterrand, Minister of Culture and Communication at the time, as well as by Michel Vauzelle, the president of the Regional Council and the mayor of Arles.

"Since Roman times, the history of Arles, listed as UNESCO World Heritage, is one of architecture. I was thrilled when I found out that Arles would now include a building designed by Frank Gehry, as it had always been a dream to welcome a great contemporary architectural project here. There is some pride in the fact that Arles will have that chance, pure chance", said Mayor Hervé Schiavetti, who was also dreaming of a tourist flood similar to Gehry's Guggenheim museum in Bilbao (Spain), where both the site and the city have become a major destination for art lovers.

While Gehry's Arlesian building could be considered a more modest artistic gesture, the Luma-Arles tower will represent an indisputable touristic asset as this international star of the 21st century architecture settles into the French landscape: in Paris, the Louis Vuitton Foundation for Contemporary Art will be inaugurated next month in its new venue in the shape of a spectacular vessel, while the Centre Pompidou will host Frank Gehry's first retrospective in Europe.

To build the Luma-Arles campus, Maja Hoffmann will invest €100 million--nearly $130 million, a colossal private investment that is equivalent to that of the Louis Vuitton Foundation financed by the luxury group LVMH, and she promised to work with local companies and create approximately 300 new jobs year round. A smart businesswoman, this patron is already purchasing an increasing number of hotels and restaurants throughout the city--a well-calculated return on investment. Tossed between gratitude and resignation, Arlesians have mixed feelings: "Where will this giant Monopoly Game end?" "She is buying the city with cultural projects." These are some of the comments that can be heard in Arles.

"When an economic player offers an investment of €100 million, public authorities have the responsibility to accept," claimed the Mayor of a city of 50,000 inhabitants deeply affected by unemployment. While the Festival means 15 full-time jobs, and 360 part-time jobs that absorb 5% of summer unemployment, the Luma-Arles campus, which will operate all year round, is a dream come true; especially when considering that Romane Sarfaty, former advisor in charge of Plastic Arts at the Ministry of Culture and Communication had declared in 2012 to a French magazine that "the French State had no money [and that ] investments were not on the agenda."

The Parc des Ateliers where the plans and models for the Parc are on exhibit. (photo by Gisèle Tavernier)
The Parc des Ateliers where the plans and models for the Parc are on exhibit. (photo by Gisèle Tavernier)

The project went off the rails when problems arose in 2010. The Luma-Arles campus had initiated its exhibition and commission program before the completion of the new project at Parc des Ateliers. Gehry's tower project, visible from the Alyscamps cemetery, a Roman necropolis listed as National Heritage, was then turned down by the Commission for the Protection of National Heritage, which required a new plan.

The 56-meter high tower has been relocated in the Parc complex. This new plan was accepted by the commission, and the planning permission was signed by the city on July 9, 2013. On July 26th President François Hollande (and Aurélie Filippetti, former Ministry of Culture and Communication) visited the Parc des Ateliers where the plans and models are on exhibit. President Hollande said he was "impressed" and remarked, ("Il n’y a pas actuellement de projet d’une telle dimension en Europe en terme d’investissement privé.") "There is presently no other project of such importance in Europe in terms of private investment." He also wrote a comment in the visitor's book: "Je suis émerveillé par ce projet qui va honorer la France et la culture. Avec ma reconnaissance pour cette exceptionnelle créativité." ("I am filled with wonder by this project, which will honor France and the culture. With my gratitude for such exceptional creativity.")

"At the time, Maja Hoffmann was solicited by other French cities and foreign countries, eager to welcome her Foundation. But she decided to remain in Arles, where it was all the more easy for her to sense and absorb the cultural dimension of the town, since her father Luc Hoffmann had already established the scientific foundation, La Tour du Valat (in Camargue)," insisted Hervé Schiavetti.

In 1974, the Swiss Doctor in Biology Luc Hoffmann, co-founder of WWF (World Wild Life Fund), turned his research center for the conservation of Mediterranean wetlands into a private foundation, thus protecting this naturally wild region of Camargue located in the delta of the Rhone river, where he and his family had settled in 1957, from the ravages of land developers. A Tate trustee, President of the Zürich Kunsthalle Foundation, member of the boards of Palais de Tokyo, Foto museum Winthertur, New York's New Contemporary Museum and Bard College, Maja Hoffmann was thus carrying on the family tradition when she acquired the Parc des Ateliers, much to the discontent of the Rencontres.

"We had asked for the Parc to be shared between the Luma Foundation and the Rencontres, something that no one actually considered," lamented Jean-Noël Jeanneney.

"In order to secure 12 years of investments and develop self-financed and lucrative activities such as the workshops, the Rencontres could have bought the buildings used as exhibition spaces since 1986 for €6 million, reimbursing €300,000 to 400,000 per year. Our know-how in terms of scenography, thanks to a team of 300 technicians, could have been marketed to other festivals (in Provence) such as the festivals in Avignon or Aix, and even the Marseille Trade Fair, and, why not… to the Luma Foundation. If we had had these spaces year-round, we could have conceived an annual exhibition, a major historical saga that could have offered quality photography to tourists and schools from October through May. This project would have cost zero public money. It was presented in June 2012 to the members of the Festival's board who were really supportive. Yet no one in the public institutions actually worked on this particular project, no meeting was even organized; 'Too expensive' was the only response. No other solutions, whether less expensive or free of charge--which I will end up finding later --were ever considered," says François Hébel.

There is no precise information regarding the budget for the international center for photography, whose cost has been assessed between €34 and up to 50 million ($44 to $65 million) over ten years, according to unverifiable sources. The project was considered unfeasible by the public authorities. The Rencontres d'Arles, seen as a unique international photography festival, still remains a priority for the French State, which is the primary source of funds for this event with an annual subsidy of €642,000, or about $835,000. No more casus belli.

"The International Center for Photography was seen as a counter-project to the Luma campus. François Hébel tried in vain to change Maja Hoffmann's mind, and he ended up isolating himself," according to a member of the board.

Uncertain about the future of the Rencontres, co-signatories Jean Noël Jeanneney, François Hébel and other resigning members of the board decided to publish last November 20th an Op Ed entitled "Les Rencontres d'Arles Unfairly Weakened" in the daily newspaper "Le Monde". Under the title "Is this the end of the Rencontres?", a website Sauvonslesrencontres.org (or Let's save the Rencontres dot org) was even more pessimistic, launching a petition drive to save the Festival.

In order to survive, the Festival must now find new venues that will have to be renovated by them or find some common ground with Luma-Arles to rent the Ateliers, while preserving full artistic independence.


THE RENCONTRES AT THE ATELIERS?

Maja Hoffmann has indicated that the Luma-Arles campus will be open throughout the construction period, so that it can still host the Festival, even if such a schedule is more expensive for Luma-Arles in terms of construction cost. In her initial 2010 project, one of the workshops, the Atelier des Forges, was destined to become a theater. However, this space of 1300 m2 (about 12,000 sq. ft.) was renovated, in compliance with the norms and standards applying to the preservation of photographs, for a cost of €4.5 million and reopened last July to coincide with the 2014 edition of the Festival.

"This building, which will be named 'La Galerie de Photo', will be devoted to photography, including historical photography. I first considered the idea to dedicate this space to the Discovery Prize. Les Forges will feature photo exhibitions, maybe with the Rencontres; the matter is presently under discussion," explained Maja Hoffmann.

Last July, as had been promised by Luma-Arles, the Atelier des Forges and the nearby Training Center (2,000 m2) were made available as exhibition spaces for the Festival that declined them.

"With the renovation having been delayed, we thought that the Forges was not going to be ready on time, and we could not take the potential risk to the artists," explained Jean-Noël Jeanneney.

So the Arles Photo Festival that will be also hosted at the Ateliers in 2015 only occupied the Atelier de la Chaudronnerie in 2014. As a result, the brand new Atelier des Forges, half empty, hosted a discreet replacement show: on last-minute invitation by the Luma-Arles foundation, the new collectible magazine "Off the wall, cultures photo" selected emerging talents such as James Barnor, Patrick Chauvel and Lara Tabet. The 141 photographs were produced, printed and framed within ten days--an amazing achievement realized in partnership with Framology Fine Arts Printing.

With the support of the various local authorities as well as the Ministry of Culture and Communication, Maja Hoffmann will restore the 20 acres of the Parc with a 30-year emphyteutic lease. An emphyteutic lease is a type of real estate contract specifying that the lessee must improve the property with construction. After 30 years possession and ownership, the land and the construction reverts back to the State. As a result, the property with construction becomes a gift by the patron who was a "temporary owner" for 30 years. These sorts of leases are usually associated with government properties. The agreement satisfies the French State.

To put things in perspective for how such things work (or do not work) in France, in 2005, the great French contemporary art collector François Pinault, weary of administrative tardiness and political indecision that was preventing the establishment of his private art foundation and important art collection on an old industrial site near Paris, ended up leaving France entirely to settle his foundation at Palazzo Grazzi in Venice, Italy.

Such an ending would have been inconceivable in Arles. On April 5, 2014, Maja Hoffmann held a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Arts Resource Center (16,000 m2), the flagship of Luma-Arles Campus, with 1,000 VIP guests, and on that same day, the full Hoffmann family--the father Luc, his son and his two daughters--inaugurated the new Van Gogh Foundation, which will showcase and promote Van Gogh's artistic heritage by presenting his paintings in the context of works by contemporary artists. It was in Arles that the Dutch painter produced his finest masterpieces in just 15 months.

At the same time, the Atelier de la Mécanique on the Luma-Arles campus opened an exhibition focusing on the architect Frank Gehry's finest masterpieces. In this monumental space of 4,000 m2, the exhibition entitled "Solaris Chronicles" invited artists to conceive a mobile staging creating an exhibition in constant motion. Commissioned and produced by the Luma Foundation, the presentation featured contributions by artists, musicians and choreographers, such as Cai Guo Qiang, David Lynch, John Baldessari, Philippe Parreno, Pierre Boulez, Tino Seghal and Liam Gillick.

The exhibition
The exhibition "Solaris Chronicles" (F.Gehry) at Atelier de la Mécanique. (photo courtesy Luma-Arles)

"Solaris Chronicles" is a unique collaboration focused on the architect's productions and it challenges the traditional notion of exhibition," wrote Maja Hoffmann. Free of charge, the choreographed show attracted 870 visitors per day during the summer, according to Luma-Arles officials.

Contemporary art is the governing principle of the Luma-Arles Foundation, otherwise also dedicated to the protection of Human Rights and the environment: three issues that will be extensively dealt with in the exhibitions and activities throughout the year. In fact, a multidisciplinary exhibition is expected to be held in 2016 at the Grande Halle du Parc (5,000 m2) in homage to more than 50 years of actions monitored by Tour du Valat, her father's foundation.

Since 2008, the conceptualization of the mission and initial programming of the Luma-Arles campus has been spearheaded by Maja Hoffmann with a core team including Bard College Director Tom Eccles (New York), co-Director of the Serpentine gallery Hans Ulrich Obrich (London), Beatrix Ruf from Kunsthalle Zürich, and artists Philippe Parreno and Liam Gillick. Since then, the Luma-Arles campus' initial photographic emphasis has shifted towards contemporary art, and many artists have been commissioned and their pieces presented throughout the city of Arles. One such exhibition was staged at the ancient Roman arena where the performance "From the Moon via the Beach" was presented in 2012.

The programming for the campus remains a "work in progress" for Maja Hoffmann and her team, who can still modify it by 2018 when the campus will be fully functional. Many worry about this "fuzzy" programming approach, but Luma-Arles representatives simply continue to say, "We have plenty of time to elaborate on the programming".

"The Luma-Arles campus, conceived as an agora, wants to be unsettling by working experimentally", explained Pierre Collet, press officer for the campus.

Dedicated to the Foundation's activities, the Arts Resource Center will be comprised by an exhibition space, a library, offices, seminar rooms, an artist-in-residence structure, archives, a café and a restaurant. The other Ateliers could be rented or could host installations or exhibitions from other productions as well as co-productions. Collaborating with the ENSP, a school that emerged from the Rencontres d'Arles in 1982, will simply require crossing the street.


ENSP, A NEW POTENTIAL FOR CO-PRODUCTIONS

The model of ENSP (the new photography school) facing Gehry's tower. (photo courtesy  ENSP)
The model of ENSP (the new photography school) facing Gehry's tower. (photo courtesy ENSP)

The ENSP, France's first post-graduate program specialized in photography, will move to its new building, which will be built at a cost of €20 million, in 2017. Gehry's 56 meter-high aluminum-covered tower will face a minimal, linear, mineral project by architect Marc Barani from Nice and recipient of the Grand Prix national d'Architecture in 2013, who was unanimously selected through an international competition by a jury that incidentally included a collaborator from Studio Frank Gehry. Doubling its space to 5,000 m2, the Fine Arts photography school will also double the number of its students.

While showing the production of its own artists, the ENSP will also develop its exhibition program in partnership with national and international museums and institutions. A project with the Galerie du Jeu de Paume, a major Parisian photography institution, is currently under consideration. In addition, a doctorate program will be initiated in partnership with international universities, such as a curatorial studies program with Bard College (New York). A focus on contemporary work will also take the form of a Fab Lab, a public cooperative experimentation space, according to Rémy Fenzy, president of the ENSP.

In addition to its status as a public institution allowing for subsidies, the ENSP is initiating an endowment fund presided by French fashion designer, gallery owner, film producer and patron Agnès b., to collect French and international private funding. Maja Hoffmann could soon join its circle of patrons. The ENSP, offspring of the Rencontres, could also develop co-productions with the Festival, as Sam Stourdzé, their incoming director, is setting up a "radical program".


NEW TEAM, NEW FESTIVAL

Beginning October 1st, Sam Stourdzé, the new director, will start work on the 2015 edition of the Festival. A new team for the event is being assembled. The new president of the Rencontres d'Arles is due to be appointed by the board shortly. Last April after a board meeting, "the gifted child of the world of exhibitions" turned independent curator and producer at 25, Sam Stourdzé, now 41, was named from a shortlist of six names from 25 candidates. Julien Frydman, director of the Paris Photo Fair, was reportedly the other strong contender.

An image specialist, Sam Stourdzé, director of the Swiss Musée de l'Elysée since 2010, has pursued his research on photography, with a particular interest in the ties linking photography, art and cinema. In 2009, his exhibition "Fellini, la Grande Parade" was a popular success at the Jeu de Paume in Paris, as were his successive retrospectives of Dorothea Lange, Tina Modotti and "Chaplin et les Images".

At the Rencontres, this man will have to face many challenges, including having to equal the performances of François Hébel, who continues as Artistic Director of the corporate and industrial photography festival FotoIndustria in Bologna (Italy), launched with the Rencontres in 0ctober 2013 by the private Italian Isabella Seragnoli Foundation together with MAST (Manufacture for Arts sharing Experiences and Technology), a new international cultural and philanthropic institution.

Opening of the exhibition
Opening of the exhibition "l'Arlésienne" by Christian Lacroix. Among the people in the picture: Hervé Schiavetti, the Mayor of Arles; the Queens of Arles; couturier Christian Lacroix; Jean-Noël Jeanneney, president of the Rencontres; François Hébel, director of the Rencontres. (photo by Gisèle Tavernier)

"Sam Stourdzé seemed best adapted for the difficult task ahead: he is a seasoned personality with the appropriate scientific and artistic imagination and managing capabilities for such an event," explained Jean-Noël Jeanneney who is ensuring the transition until the Fall.

Hervé Schiavetti felt that "Sam Stourdzé and François Hébel are similar in personality, just as flamboyant and brilliant. He will instill youth, vigor and faith back into the Rencontres."

Besides having that youth, vigor and faith, the new director has also had to deal with controversy in the past. While having good political sense and negotiation skills, Stourdzé, has shown that he is willing to fight for freedom of expression, and he is someone who won't hesitate to revoke ties with a sponsor for reasons of political censorship, as in the case of the London-based Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour at the Musée de l'Elysée three years ago. The problem of the venues for the Festival has to be resolved, but clearly not at any price.

The Mayor has suggested some old industrial buildings on the outskirts of the city as replacement venues to the Rencontres with all renovation costs falling--as usual--upon the Festival. These are venues that the outgoing team considered inadequate and unusable in the short term, because renovation would be unfeasibly long and costly. Will the Rencontres be forced to reconsider their format for lack of enough venues? Limiting the number of exhibitions implies less ticket sales, which would mean essential revenue losses for the Festival.

Sam Stourdzé notes: "A festival is not a museum, and it is not a commercial fair. It is a moment in which photography can be reinvented, experimental, exploring amazing spaces. A festival is the anti-white cube, outside of the sometimes-aseptic museum spaces to meet the city. It is true that in Arles, few venues comply with the museum's strict conditions, but the opportunity to exhibit in the spectacular volumes of churches, cloisters or industrial sites trigger artists' enthusiasm. It is a rare occasion to confront themselves with space, with history."

The new director is expected to make his mark through a format that will be in sharp contrast to past editions.

"Today, photographers can express themselves through exhibition, screening and publishing. I would like the Rencontres to reassert its radical presence in all three. In terms of exhibition, we offer magical venues; in terms of screening, the evenings at the Théâtre Antique during the inaugural week are unique moments. I would like them to be more performative. And publishing is a field experiencing massive technological mutations seized on by artists. We need to be extremely attentive to artists' preoccupations, and account for them!"

This energetic reformer and fine politician has the mission to ensure the continued existence of the Rencontres. Working out an agreement with Maja Hoffmann and her foundation could provide a way out of the current impasse. We may see how all this shapes out in the near future, perhaps as early as October when Sam Stourdzé will unveil his program.

Gisèle Tavernier is a freelance photography critic and a journalist specializing in the international art market. She has been a TV director (cultural shows) and a contributor to The Eyes magazine, Le Journal des Arts, Connaissance des Arts magazine and French Vogue, among other publications.

A portfolio expert at the Rencontres d’Arles, she has served on various juries for programs such as the Ecole d’Arts Graphiques et d’Architecture de la Ville de Paris, PhotoEspagna festival (Madrid) and SWZ Prize (Zürich).

Tavernier has also lectured on the international photography market at the PhotoBeijing fair.