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10 Exhibitions to See at the 2021 Rencontres d’Arles Festival

10 Exhibitions to See at the 2021 Rencontres d’Arles Festival

The 2021 edition of the prestigious annual photography event, which opens today, features thirty-five exhibitions. Blind highlights a few of the ones you won’t want to miss if you’re attending the festival.

After many months during which culture was relegated to obscurity because of the pandemic, the Rencontres de la photographie in Arles is opening an edition that aims to be full of light. Titled “Summer of Fireflies” in reference to the philosopher Georges Didi-Huberman who, through his work Survival of the Fireflies (2009), sought “to recognize in the slightest firefly a resistance, a light for all thought,” the event builds on the previous one, organized by former director Sam Stourdzé around the theme of resistance. An act of resistance in the face of the destructive silence of the pandemic, Christoph Wiesner, the new director, announced last March a “constellation” edition, illustrating the diversity of a wide variety of both artists and the lens through which they view the world.  A return to life. 

After surveying the program, here then is our handpicked list of 10 not-to-miss exhibitions at Arles 2021.

DESIDERATION (ANAMANDA SIN), From disaster to desire: towards another space mythology

SMITH, No title, Désidération, series, 2000-2021. Courtesy of Les Filles du Calvaire gallery

Etched in the cosmos, our humanity tends to forget its immanent connection to nature and to space, alienated as it is by capitalist greed. In this devastating Anthropocene, have we not lost our stars and thereby our beliefs and hope? This exhibition invites us to reconnect with nature by gazing at the sky and its constellations, in an enchanting atmosphere bordering on the paranormal. A cosmic trip! 

Monoprix, through September 26, 2021, 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Estimated length of visit: 20 minutes. More information here.

SMITH, Untitled, Désidération series, 2000-2021. Courtesy of Les Filles du Calvaire gallery


Raymond Cauchetier, À bout de souffle, Jean-Luc Godard, 1959

His images are as iconic as the New Wave films he immortalized with his stills: BreathlessJules and Jim, and Lola, among others. The still photographer Raymond Cauchetier, who passed away this year, approached his field with enthusiasm, entering the frame, asking for scenes to be replayed and documenting the takes.  A total immersion in the making of a film and a beautiful tribute that is not to be missed. 

Abbaye de Montmajour, through September 26, 2021. Estimated length of visit: 30 minutes. More information here.

Raymond Cauchetier, Adieu Philippine, Jacques Rozier, 1960


Christopher Anderson, Stock Exchange District, New York, USA, 2008. Courtesy of Magnums Photos

Street photography is an integral part of the DNA of the Magnum agency, which was founded by a collective of photographers in 1947. Taken from the eponymous book published by Actes Sud under the editorial direction of photographer Stephen McLaren, this chronological and thematic exhibition explores the archives of the agency and invites us to discover some of photography’s greatest masters through a selection of their iconic or previously unpublished photos. 

Actes Sud bookstore, through September 26, 2021, 9:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Estimated length of visit: 10 minutes. More information here.

Gueorgui Pinkhassov, The New Metro, Tokyo, Japan, 1996. Courtesy of Magnums Photos

THE NEW BLACK VANGUARD, Photography between art and fashion

Daniel Obasi, Instants de jeunesse, Lagos, Nigeria, 2019

Whether they come from the world of fashion or art photography, the Black photographers in this group exhibition nourish and reinvent our relationship with beauty. Through staging of the Black body that is both joyful and glamorous in its approach, they take Black beauty into new fields of experimentation and expression. A celebration of Black creativity and its diversity! 

Église Sainte-Anne, through September 26, 2021, 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Estimated length of visit: 45 minutes. More information here.

Dana Scruggs, Nyadhour, Elevated, Death Valley, California, 2019


Isabel Muñoz, Untitled, 2017

As the inaugural exhibition of the new Mougins Photography Center, which is devoted to contemporary photography, “1001” offers the opportunity to discover recent works by the Spanish photographer renowned for her extra large formats and platinum prints. Among these, the Japan series, derived from seven trips to the land of the rising sun between 2017 and 2020, offers a surprising photo and video gallery. The photographer stages enigmatic or even ghostly characters in theatrical postures that echo Japanese customs and traditions such as Noh theater, tattooing and bondage. 

Centre de la photographie, through October 3, 2021, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Every day from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Closed Tuesdays. More information here.

Isabel Muñoz, Untitled, 2019


Jean-Michel André, Borders # 21. Courtesy of Sit Down Gallery

With “Borders,” Jean-Michel André set out to meet men, women and children leaving everything behind and embarking on a journey whose sole objective is hope for a better life. Jean-Michel André photographs the lands they travel through – France, Italy, Spain, Tunisia – suspended between beauty and desolation, insensitive to the aspirations, fears and doubts of the people who roam across them.

Croisière, through September 26, 2021, 10 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. Estimated length of visit: 10 minutes. More information here.

Jean-Michel André, Borders # 61. Courtesy of Sit Down Gallery

JEAN-LUC BERTINI, American Solitudes

Jean-Luc Bertini, Las Vegas, Nevada, 2015

“American Solitudes” is a ten-year road trip across the vast expanse of the United States. In a humanist vein, Jean-Luc Bertini photographs the Americans he meets along his journey, capturing them in their daily lives. As if lost in the immensity of their urban or natural spaces, the characters he encounters in these typically American settings exude solitude. Mysterious frescoes, tinged with melancholy. 

Croisière, through September 26, 2021, 10 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. Estimated length of visit: 10 minutes. More information here.

Jean-Luc Bertini, Amish, Lincolville, Maine, 2008

INCARNATIONS, When photography takes shape

Lauren Moffatt, Compostl_DigitalRender_2021. Courtesy of the artist

Digital wild flowers, rain forests of pixels or UFO creatures, springing from digital magma: the “Incarnations” exhibition reveals images of a new world resulting from the latest image creation technologies (photogrammetry, LIDAR scanning, etc.). An experience of dazzling beauty and strangeness. 

Couvent Saint-Césaire, through August 20, 2021, 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Estimated length of visit: 30 minutes. More information here.

Chrystal Cherniwchan & Dimitri Daniloff, Flat Tow Tops Low

ILANIT ILLOUZ, Wadi Qelt: In the stony light

Ilanit Illouz, Wadi, The Sinkholes series, 2016–2021. Courtesy of the artist

An experimental photographic study, Ilanit Illouz’s project takes us to the heart of Wadi Qelt, in the heart of the Judean desert. Because of global warming, the lake is drying up dramatically, transforming this arid area into a lunar landscape, taken over by salt that the artist collects in order to incorporate it into her prints. Creating sculptural and scintillating frescoes, the artist highlights the fragile beauty of this threatened ecosystem. 

Église des Frères Prêcheurs, through August 29, 2021, 10 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. Estimated length of visit: 5 minutes. More information here.

Ilanit Illouz, Salt, The Sinkholes series, 2016–2021. Courtesy of the artist

MICHEL SIMA, Françoise Gilot and Pablo Picasso through Michel Sima’s lens

Michel Sima, Pablo Picasso next to Françoise au collier, Château Grimaldi, September 1946

A Polish artist who was both a sculptor and a photographer, Michel Sima arrived in Paris in 1930 and became friends with many artists, including the mythical couple made up of Pablo Picasso and Françoise Gilot, who continued their tumultuous relationship under the sun of southern France. Sima witnessed that relationship first-hand, and through his photographs, presented here in complement to the Françoise Gilot exhibition, we discover a magnificent close-up of the artists. 

Saint Rémy de Provence, through September 26, 2021, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. (closed between noon and 2 p.m. Closed Mondays). Exhibition accessible with a pass to the Arles 2021. More information here.

Michel Sima, Françoise la Galloise, Château Grimaldi, September 1946

By Marie d’Harcourt

Marie d’Harcourt is a writer at Blind Magazine and based in Paris.

Complete information on the Rencontres d’Arles here.

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