For the first time in Australia, the exhibition “Paris Dark Light”, a collection of photos by famous French photographer Michel Setboun will be shown. You can visit the exhibition for free but only this weekend (from 11am to 8pm) at the Dunstan Playhouse in Adelaide as part of the Adelaide French Festival.
The exhibition is composed of 15 photos taken in black and white which will show a different side of Paris – a Paris which is sublime, eternal and intimate.
I had the opportunity to speak with the two very interesting women who have put together this exhibition. Camille Chaumette and Agnès Mabille have formed a business in Hong Kong called Mabille Chaumette Art Exhibition. The business works to promote French artists in China and the reverse – Chinese artists in France.
Photo by Michel Setboun: the shadows of pedestrians in Montmartre.Meeting Michel
Michel Setboun is the photographer who we are showing the Adelaide French Festival. He is a French photographer who is very well-known and who has a pretty unbelievable background having started many decades again as a photojournalist with a lot of travel and a lot of subjects, many of which were war or societal matters. It’s a big part of his background. Over the last decade, his work has evolved and today his focus is on projects of “fine art”, contemporary photography. He has received international prizes such as the Visa Presse prize. He was exposed at Rencontres d’Arles, an internationally known event. So Michel is very famous in France.
Agnès and I work in finding new talents to exhibit. We met Michel after an exhibition that he had done in Paris. We really liked his work so we asked to meet him. So we met him in a little cafe in the Marais in Paris. We fell in love not just with his work but also his personality. We explained to him that we are curators of exhibitions and are interested in exhibiting French artists in Hong Kong and asked whether he would be interested in us exhibiting his works in Hong Kong. He was on board.
So then he sent us all of his photographs – we received photos from a lot of projects and it was at that moment as curators that we selected photos and decided to propose an exhibition around the collection of Paris Dark Light. It was a collection of about 200 photos. From those we then chose about 25, focussed on romanticism and mystery. The photos showing in Adelaide are a smaller selection of those we selected for the Hong Kong exhibition.
The Paris Airport really liked the exhibition and they bought the exhibition, which they showed for 6 months at the Charles de Gaulle airport. It gave a vision of an eternal, intimate Paris.
The Paris Airport liked Michel’s work so much that they then commissioned him to take photos of the airport in the same black and white style with the same sorts of light effects.
How were you found by the Adelaide French Festival?
Having exhibited Paris Dark Light at the Hong Kong french festival which is called French May, the Adelaide French Festival contacted the French Consulate in Hong Kong who gave them our contact details. Our business is the consulate’s official curator.
In this exhibition we visit a sublime, eternal and intimate Paris. Michel allows us to see the city of lights. With his details, angles and camerawork we see a different side of Paris. There is a photo of the Eiffel Tower taken from the traditional angle but then another which shows a different side.
Michel is very much on board for the adaptation of his works for exhibitions. We choose artists not just for their work but also their personality.
This exhibition is quite short?
It is a short exhibition compared to Hong Kong where the festival is over a whole month. We were very touched that the Adelaide French Festival contacted us for the festival. It’s the first time – we have never exhibited in Australia before. Our business is based around Paris and Hong Kong so it was a good opportunity to work in Australia. We work hard with our artists to create quality exhibitions. It is very important.
There are three branches to our work:
- Activity as curators – we work for clients who ask us to organise exhibitions – such as festivals or the Paris Airport.
- As producers – we invest and try to promote and emerging art scene of French or Chinese culture by proposing new artists.
- As agents – we propose our services as agents in China as often French artists have agents in France but not overseas.
So that is what our work is made up of.
And before this business?
Agnès : I have been in Hong Kong for 4 years. It’s a bit over 2 years ago that we met in Hong Kong.
We complete each other. We have the same vision. Camille is the best half of me. We are a dynamic duo.
It was natural for us firstly with our interest in the artists but then we very quickly entered into contracts like the one with the Paris Airport. We then very quickly put together the business and hired teams.
Before going to Hong Kong, I worked for about a decade for the press in Paris as well as in the event organisation.
Camille : I worked for a group of luxury brands, Coty, in fundraising for cultural and artistic projects. From there, I went to work for Drouot, an auction house in Paris, like Sotheby’s and Christie’s and then I moved to Hong Kong.
And after this exhibition in Adelaide?
Agnès: Our next project is an exhibition which will take place in Hong Kong in May. It’s an exhibition by a French female sculptor, Natalie Decoster, who is also well-known, really renowned having sculpture installations as exterior monuments in many of the capitals including Tokyo, Shanghai and Paris.
The Paris Airport has acquired a number of her works and has just ordered a new monumental piece for permanent exhibition at the Charles de Gaulle airport. We will be bringing the piece to Hong Kong, exclusively. The work is called Consciousness and it invites reflection. It’s a monumental bronze sculpture which will be more than 6 metres high. So we will be exhibiting Natalie’s works for French May which is in the Pacific Mall in Hong Kong.
Camille: March is an important month for art in Hong Kong. There is Art Week as well as Art Basel in Hong Kong. We are currently working on a project for what’s known as the off course of Art Basel. We are bringing a street art collective from Paris. We are working to create special works which will cover the trams of Hong Kong. All the exteriors of the trams in circulation will be covered in art. People can go inside these painted trams. In addition the street art collective will do live art.
You can visit the exhibition “Paris Dark Light” just until Sunday in the Dunstan Playhouse foyer. If you are interested in Camille and Agnès’ work, you can follow them on instagram @mabille.chaumette