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Bettina Rheims (1952)….ANIMAL

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Bettina Rheims has been working as an artist since the early Seventies but rose to fame with a controversial series on strip-tease artist in 1978. Since her career took of and she was invited to publish her series of photographs with one of the best publishers in the art book business…Gina Kehayoff. Kehayoff is known for making immaculate publications , and she outperformed herself with the publication of the ANIMAL series by Bettina Rheims. The series of black and white photographs was done in 1982 and published in 1994, hard, cloth bound with see through ( perspex?) cover.

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The Animal series enabled her to train her lens on another form of nudity: that of stuffed animals with fixed stares, “which seemed to want to express something beyond death”.”I had to capture their gaze” declared the photographer.

This book is, together with “Morceaux choisis”, my personal favorit book by Rheims and both are available at www.ftn-books.com

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Bettina Rheims ( 1958 ) another controversial title

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Here it is…another rarely encountered Bettina Rheims title. It is LES ESPIONNES.

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Published by one of the best photography publishers Gina Kehayoff, it stayed a rather obscure title and was rarely reviewed nor it was ordered by the regular Bookstores. My guess is the editions stayed under 1000 copies of which a few hundred were sold. What becomes of such an edition.? Not sold through the regular sales channels, only a handful loyal collectors who ordered it and certainly no interest by companies to have an imprint with their name on the cover. The reason…it is clear to me ..the subjects are transgenders who posed and were photographed by Bettina Rheims during the process of their transition. This has become one of the most important titles by Bettina Rheims and i was lucky to buy me a small stack of these important photography documents. The book is available through www.ftn-books.com and is still in mint sealed condition.

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Bettina Rheims ( 1952 ) and Morceaux Choisis

It is possible that i like the photography of Bettina Rheims so much because we are from the same generation. The french hotel rooms that are a little worn are familiar to me too and these are in many cases the backgrounds of the models that Bettina Rheims uses in her photography. Whenever i find a book or special publication by Rheims , i buy it. The MORCEAUX CHOISIS title that is available at www.ftn-books.com was found in Bilbao at a local bookstore when we visited it together with the Guggenheims. Still packed and in pristine condition . another title published a few years ago was found in Paris and the last one i added ” BONKERS” in Rotterdam. The collection of Rheims publications will be expanding in the years to come , but has now grown into quite a few titles.

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Marc Chagall (1887-1985)

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I am not an admirer of Marc Chagall. I am even one of those art lovers that does not like Chagall at all. Except there were 2 occasions i was impressed with Chagall. I remember the first time i went to the Fondation Maeght where ” La Vie ” was on display.

This painting had everything in it. Color, abstraction, symbolism and its size made it an overwhelming experience. The second time was in France too. I visited the Reims cathedral where the glass stained windows were designed by Chagall. In this religious setting everything came together again. Like the experience in Vence i had the same experience in Rheims…an overwhelming sence of piece and joy and realisation that life is great and beautiful. On the Maeght site i found this story on Chagall and for any publications on Chagall visit www.ftn-books.com

Painter born, Moïche Zakharovitch Chagalov, 7 July, 1887 near Vitebsk, in Belarus (then part of the Russian Empire), acquired French nationality in 1937 and died 28 March, 1985 in St. Paul de Vence.

Aimé Maeght met Marc Chagall for the first time in October 1947 at the opening of his retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris organized by Jean Cassou to promote and celebrate the return of the painter after years of exile in the United States.

“Ida Chagall took me to her father’s house, and in the studio I was amazed when I discovered the gouaches painted in the United States and Mexico, sixty superb works that I had the chance to bring to rue de Téhéran. We all stopped the project for the first exhibition at the gallery. This meeting marked the beginning of our close and confident collaboration and a loyal friendship.” explained Aimé Maeght. This exhibition was held in March 1950. It was also the year that Chagall came to live in Vence near Saint-Paul.

When Marguerite and Aimé Maeght created the Foundation, they asked Chagall for a large painting for the room to be dedicated to him. The artist created La Vie  (1964, oil on canvas, 296 x 406 cm), a large swirling composition where real-life events and dreams that had always lived within the painter come together : the rabbi grandfather,  the marriage to Bella, the birth of Ida, the two exiles, the one from Russia by horse and the one to America by boat, musicians, acrobats and dancers, Paris all in blue and at the end of the path, the painter with the palette that appears to contemplate this epic that is larger than the adventure of one man. Above him, embracing him in her arms, is Vava his companion, the beneficial ally, who seems to be born of his painting to soothe the anxiety and torment of the creator.