It is a constellation of small images that welcomes the visitor to the new Albert-Kahn Museum in Boulogne-Billancourt: of the 72,000 precious autochromes in the collection, this color process on glass plate, marketed by the Lumière brothers from 1907 , 2,860 have been reproduced and backlit, composing a mosaic of enchanting colors on the wall.
“We took one image out of twenty-seven in the collection, chronologically,” indicates the Deputy Director of Conservation, Magali Melandri. A random selection that gives the visitor an idea of the extent and above all the variety of this unique collection in the world, the “Archives of the Planet”, captured across fifty countries, from 1909 to 1931. shimmering images of distant countries, but also many photos taken in France and often less cheerful: First World War, destruction, refugees, social movements…
The Albert-Kahn Museum, treasure of the Hauts-de-Seine department, is experiencing a new lease of life after six years of work, which cost 60 million euros and multiplied by five the reception areas for the public. The project, served by a new building and renovations signed by the Japanese Kengo Kuma, had to meet the challenges posed by this unique place, installed on the historic property of its founder, Albert Kahn (1860-1940): how to showcase a collection autochromes (process based on potato starch), so fragile that the originals cannot be exhibited? And how to make known the work of Albert Kahn, philanthropic banker who spent all his fortune to defend his pacifist and internationalist ideal, before dying ruined, in 1940?
“You have to have your eyes wide open”, the technology-savvy banker liked to say to the vast project of documenting the world
The designers had the good idea to center the subject around this founder so discreet that he refused to be photographed. His various achievements are presented there as a whole, in the service of his dream of progress and world harmony: the “Archives of the planet”, but also his garden, as well as his various foundations. The whole is revealed in the new building and the pavilions, along a very free and fun route, full of screens, projections and interactive terminals. “There are no prints or enlargements, the images were seen at the time in the form of projection, and they have a great affinity with digital”underlines the director of the museum, Nathalie Doury.
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