Blind Magazine : photography at first sight
Close this search box.

Florence Bourgeois: “A good fair is one that makes you want to come back”

On the occasion of Paris Photo 2021, Blind met with the fair’s director, Florence Bourgeois, who tells us what makes this year’s edition worth your while.

Werner Bischof, Meiji Shrine
Werner Bischof, Meiji Shrine, Tokyo, Japan, © Werner Bischof Estate, Magnum Photos, Bildhalle

How did you discover photography?

Ever since I was little, I have visited all sorts of exhibitions in Paris or abroad. As far as photography is concerned, I was lucky enough to have spent my vacations near Aix-en-Provence for over twenty years. Every summer I would go to the Rencontres d’Arles: it was part of my holiday itinerary. Another encounter was important: when I was studying art history, mid-career, I took some courses at the Sorbonne with Sylvie Aubenas, director of the Prints and Photography Department at the French National Library.

Fatima Mazmouz
Fatima Mazmouz, Des Monts et Mères Veillent – VADERETRO – 1 – L’oeil, 2019 (FNAC 2021-0328) © Adagp, Paris, 2021 _ Cnap – Crédit photo © Fatima Mazmouz, Courtesy Galerie 127

Give us three good reasons to visit Paris Photo, even if one is not a collector?

First of all, Paris Photo is the number one photo fair in the world: in terms of size, lifespan, and expertise. From one booth to the next, you get the opportunity to discover a panorama of over two centuries of photography, since the fair covers historical, modern, and contemporary developments. It is also an opportunity to talk to gallery owners and artists. You can meet the artists during book signings. This year, there are more than 300 book signings scheduled. And we also have “Conversations,” or dialogues between an expert and an artist. Lastly, coming to Paris Photo can also be an opportunity to start a collection: for less than 50 euros, you can treat yourself to a beautiful book.

James Barnor
James Barnor, Portrait of Evelyn Abbew, Studio Ever Young, Accra, Ghana, 1954 © Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

Can we see collections at Paris Photo?

Usually, Paris Photo hosts one large collection. This year, with the Grand Palais Éphémère being smaller, it was not possible. There will still be some presentations of collections with a more modest number of works. The JP Morgan collection, for example, which has been our partner for ten years; Corpus, a selection from the recent acquisitions of the Centre National d’Art Plastique (CNAP); and Passport by the Muus Collection, which showcases a 1990s series by Deborah Turbeville.

Tomas Paquet
Thomas Paquet, Etude pour Horizon 4, 2015 © Bigaignon

What makes a good art fair?

Undeniably, the selection of exhibitors and works matters a great deal… It is fundamental, both for the museums and the collectors who come to buy and enrich their collection, but also for the public who come to look at photographs. A good fair is one that makes you want to come back the next time, whether you are a visitor or an exhibitor!

Sandro Miller, Diane Arbus
Sandro Miller, Diane Arbus_ Identical Twins, Roselle, New Jersey (1967), 2014 © Courtesy Gallery Fifty One

What are you most proud of in the 2021 edition?

First of all, I’m proud of the fact that we’ve been able to keep the energy of our teams and visitors going in these complicated times. I am very happy that the Curiosa sector has grown from 14 to 20 exhibitors. And I am particularly proud of Elles x Paris Photo: it shows our commitment to women artists. For several years now, we have been encouraging galleries to present more female artists. It’s been a long journey, and we’re continuing along this path.

Interview conducted by Sophie Bernard.

Sophie Bernard is a journalist specializing in photography, a contributor to La Gazette de Drouot and Le Quotidien de l’Art, a curator, and a teacher at EFET in Paris.

Paris Photo: from November 11 to 14, 2021, Grand Palais Éphémère, Champ-de-Mars, Place Joffre, 75007 Paris.

Hans Bellmer
Hans Bellmer, La poupée, 1938 © Galerie Sophie Scheidecker
Paolo Ventura
Paolo Ventura, Hommage à Steinberg, 2014 © Galerie XII

Read more: Photo Paris: What to See

You’re getting blind.
Don’t miss the best of visual arts. Subscribe for $9 per month or $108 $90 per year.

Already subscribed? Log in