Renovated and enlarged, the museum, which boasts rare photographic reproductions, offers an exhibition on the subject of travel
Closed for six years for major renovations and expansions, the Musée Albert Kahn reopened its doors on April 2. In 1893, the banker, humanitarian and philanthropist acquired an estate at 6 Quai du 4 Septembre in Boulogne, outside Paris, on the banks of the Seine.
Kahn (1860–1940), who traveled extensively for his work, both intellectual and political, created a utopian and visionary project: between 1909 and 1931, he hired a dozen photographers around the world, including local Sent for the purpose of documenting places, people, uses. and customs. Thus he created what he called the “Archives of the Planet”: a unique collection of its kind containing seventy-two thousand autochromi, one of the first industrial processes of color photography, patented by the Lumires brothers in 1903, five thousand stereoscopic plates. and one hundred and eighty thousand meters 35mm film, for a total of one hundred hours.
The banker later lost his fortune after the financial crash of 1929 and the collection was acquired in 1936 by the Hauts-de-Seine department in the Paris area (the same one where the future Musée du Grand Sicle would also open, which houses the collection by Pierre Rosenberg. ). The first museum was inaugurated in 1990. In 2016 it was closed to complete an ambitious museum project that includes the restoration of historic buildings and the construction of a modern building (2,300 m) for permanent paths and spaces for temporary exhibitions. The pre-existing museum building has been restored and now houses an auditorium. The museum has also been completely redesigned. The total budget allocated exceeds sixty million euros. Hence the Musée Albert Kahn is a museum of images whose very delicate collections are rarely exhibited. The city of Paris alone has five thousand autochromy and two hundred stereoscopic plates preserved, some of which, even unpublished, were presented in 2020 at the Cité de l’architecture & du patrimoine.
The institution is also a museum-garden: in fact, Kahn, passionate about botany, continued to expand his estate in Boulogne until 1920, acquiring a total of four hectares of land, and created a larger garden with landscape architects of his time. . Essences and plants coming from all over the world. The beautiful greenhouses have been recovered and transformed into an exhibition space. In these places, registered on the List of Historic Monuments since 2015, the director of the museum, Nathalie Dory, expects to welcome one hundred twenty thousand and one hundred and forty thousand visitors a year.
Upon arriving in Boulogne from Paris, you will come across the grand metalwork of the new museum. In 2012, the architectural project was entrusted to the Japanese studio of Kengo Kuma, who was also responsible for the new headquarters of the Victoria and Albert Museum in Dundee, Scotland (2018), Japan House in So Paulo in Brazil (2017) and the Victoria and Albert Museum in So Paulo (2017). FRAC-Fonds Regional d’Art Contemporaneum of Marseille (2013).
,on the border with the cityArchitect Jordi Vinayales of Kengo Kuma Studio explains, We wanted to give a very strong urban signal. The façade is like a mineral wall that marks the clear boundary between the city and the museum with its extraordinary garden. The purpose of the whole project is to protect the garden“. There is a nice soft light in the hall. Large windows open up at a glimpse of the greenery. For the façade of the museum, towards the garden, the studio has taken one of the distinctive elements of traditional Japanese architecture,angawa,,A walkway that runs around historic Japanese homes, allowing you to have a multipurpose space, walkway, or contemplative stop, both inside and out» Jordi Viniels comments again. He also adds «We have oriented this element of the Japanese tradition in a contemporary way with wooden and metal blades oriented in different ways, which allows you to create vibrations of light ».the architect also inspires SweatA mat of very fine bamboo stalks that, in Japanese homes, allows natural light to filter through. “It was necessary that, when in the garden, the three-story building integrates into the landscape and literally disappears,
The permanent path opens onto an evocative “inventory wall” that passes through the ground floor rooms, submerged in the penumbra, composed of a selection of two thousand five hundred autochromes in the original 9 x 12 cm format, which describes Is the travel of “Operators” by Albert Kahn between Europe, the United States, the East. These are not original plates, too fragile to show, but dematerialized replicas: “We build a museum without being able to display the original matrixMagali Melandri, the representative director of the museum’s collections, explains. It is the fragility of the collection itself that explains its exceptional state of conservation, as very little of the original has been shown, in contrast to current images made by the Pathé or Roll agency. Albert Kahn reserved his wealth for a small elite of intellectuals and academics. On the contrary, our project is to make it accessible to the wider public.,
On the way you meet the owner of the house and a circle of intellectuals, artists and science people who surrounded him, Only those to whom he opened his “archive”, and who agreed to pose for him, portraying himself in his studio. Albert Kahn, born in Marmoutier, Alsace, which became German in 1871, left for Paris when he was only sixteen years old, where he became a friend of the philosopher Henri Bergson. In 1898 he founded his own bank. Kahn was a very open man for his time, a pacifist who defended the rights and secularism of women and workers. Gradually he was able to shape his ideal, documenting the world of the early twentieth century.”Correcting aspects, practices and methods of human activity whose fatal disappearance is only a matter of time», in order to be able to transfer it to future generations in the perspective of peace and progress.
To achieve his goal, he assigned the geographer Jean Brunes to coordinate the project, training a dozen “operators” in the use of photographic equipment of timing and video, and providing them with a list of instructions in about fifty countries around the world. Sent. Immortalize religious ceremonies, scenes of military life, dances, work tools, means of transport, houses, clothing, etc.
Along the way are some items that belonged to Cannes himself, including the large and solid leather suitcase he commissioned from bag maker Louis Vuitton to transport the operators’ heavy and delicate work equipment (tripods, film and all material ) autochromies) .. a large interactive digital instrument, circular in shape, allowing the visitor to explore the diversity of the collection, «the largest in the world, followed by National Geographic, although about half are autochrome», divided into four disciplines: ethnography, current events, travel, geography. Using the tablet, you can select images, enlarge them, get all the information and watch videos.
In 1914, Stephen Passett documented Hindu cremation in India. In 1919 Lucien Le Saint made the first images from the front. In 1927, Frédéric Gadmer brought back films from Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq. ,Film and video acquire a documentary dimensionHead of Collection David-Sean Thomas explains. We do not seek the spectacularization of images, even though each operator has its own sensibility and there is always a temptation to create a beautiful image to win over the privileged visitors of Boulogne, as in beautiful sunset views or provocative images . glacier,
Until 13 November the museum presents the exhibition “Autore du Monde” in the spaces on the second floor. For future programming, two exhibitions are planned every year. This first exhibition, partly conceived during the COVID-19 pandemic, exploredThe subject most beloved to Kahn is that of travel, and its representation in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, with images drawn from the museum’s collection, some of which have never been exhibited before, but are also more contemporary.» Magali explains Melandri.
The exhibition draws inspiration from Cannes’s first documented world tour, between 1908 and 1909, from Paris to New York, en route to China, Japan, Sri Lanka, and the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. It was on that journey that the idea of ”archives of the planet” was born. Kahn started out with his driver and mechanic, Albert Dutertre, whom he introduced to photography and cinema. Dutertra made more than four thousand stereoscopic plates and two thousand meters of film in black and white and in color. Every day he wrote in a notebook what he saw and his feelings.
The exhibition is also an opportunity to remember Kahn’s philanthropic and creative business: in fact, he established a university grant that allowed hundreds of students to explore the world. The images, the results of those wanderings, are now displayed for the first time and address issues such as the birth and invention of tourism. MemorialUp to mass travel and new digital image reproduction equipment. Shots of Bernard Plousu, Max Pam, Katherine Hyland and Simon Vansteinwinkel are displayed, whose photos of the pandemic give way.
Except for the temporary exhibition, the transparent walls of the museum allow you to have a more beautiful view of the garden where the journey continues, between tree-lined walkways and buildings of different periods transformed into restored and thematic exhibition areas. Passionate about Japan, Banker owned a Japanese-style village in 1897, complete with a tea pavilion and a red lacquered bridge. Part of the park is set up in the English style with a stream and a cottage, Greenhouse overlooking a flower gardentypical flowers of a garden a la françaiseOn the Ancien Regime and the Rose Garden, 1895 work by landscape architects Henri and nille Duchon. Kahn also wanted a “blue forest” and a “Vosges forest” with Colorado spruce, for which beech and silver fir were procured from the area of his childhood.
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