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Homa Taj in Conversation with Peter Kjeldgaard of Bruun Rasmussen Auction House (Denmark)

Photo Courtesy Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers
Photo Courtesy Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers

Homa Taj in conversation with Peter Kjelgaard,  Head of Design at Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers, Scandinavia’s leading auction house. Rasmussen recently exhibited their stunning Le Corbusier tapestry from the collection of famed architect Jørn Oberg Utzon (1918-2008), at Collective Design Fair, in New York City.

Homa Taj – For those who may not be familiar with Bruun Rasmussen, can you tell us about your firm?
We are one of the leading auction houses in Scandinavia based in Copenhagen and we are a leader in primarily Nordic design and art. Knowledge and passion is the driving force behind everything we do.

HT – When was your Auction house founded?
Our auction house was established in 1948 in Copenhagen, Denmark by Arne Bruun Rasmussen.

HT- How do you select which artists, periods, etc to represent?
Many objects are presented to us daily, and we select those suitable for our international sales based on our knowledge and our interpretation of what is happening in the market – sometimes trying to point to something new or different.

HT – How do you see the dramatic rise in real estate prices (in New York) affecting the art and design market?
Growth in real estate is actually good for us. We see a growing interest from clients in the New York area specially from discerning clients looking to buy Nordic design from the country of origin.

HT – How do you define the New York art market – in comparison to other art centers around the world?
New York is a giant magnet for all items of exceptional quality. That certainly is the case for the increasing interest in vintage design of which Danish midcentury design is a critical component.

HT – What trend(s) do you anticipate in the art/ design market in the coming 5 or 15 years?
Mid-century vintage is a relatively new field of collecting. We think that the difference in prices between what is simply a good piece and what is an exceptional piece will increase dramatically as buyers become more knowledgeable.

HT – What are your thoughts about the trend toward purchasing art and design online?
We see online purchasing as a great opportunity and believe that this is an unstoppable trend. We offer online auctions on a daily basis and have done so for 12 years. This is part of our business model and we seek to expand this area. Selling expensive, high quality pieces online does however require sellers to meet very high standards of description, photos and service associated with the buying of such pieces. We believe that a gradual process toward this will happen everywhere.

HT – How would you define the importance of art fairs?
Art fairs offer clients the opportunity to see pieces displayed in curated context. They play an important role in moving the interest in new directions.

HT – What has been your most memorable encounter with an art collector?
Our company have had the privilege of countless memorable and eccentric clients over the past 6 decades so to name anyone particular would be unjust to far too many.

HT – What is your next big project? 
We are constantly trying to expand the knowledge and understanding of Nordic Design through our international sales. In our international sales we aim for a special focus that can offer a new perspective on both unknown and well established designers. These “stories” are presented with an array of other well known pieces. Our next sale will focus on Danish Designer Poul Kjaerholm following up on an affair with him that took of with our seminal 2006 special Poul Kjaerholm sale.

HT – What upcoming auctions should collectors get excited about?
This idea of trying to bring something new and fresh out about iconic designers has also been the underlying reason for our presentation of the wonderful Le Corbusier tapestry that came from the Home of world famous architect Jørn Utzon. This tapestry was made in 1960 and intended as the starting point for Le Corbusiers involvement in the decoration of the interior of the Sydney Opera House. A project never fulfilled that now seems a loss to us all.

Utzon was the first Dane to win the Pritzker Prize for Architecture, in 2003. A year later, his design for the Sydney Opera House was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Later in June (9-11), Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers in Copenhagen will present Jørn Utzon’s private art and furniture collection. The preview runs from May 28 to June 1.

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Homa Taj in Conversation with Photography Curator François Hebel

François Hebel - Photo courtesy Le Monde
François Hebel – Photo courtesy Le Monde

François Hebel is one of the most influential figures in the world of photography. He has led such powerful organizations as Les Rencontres de la photographie Arles (1985-87 and 2001-2014) and Magnum Photos (1987-2000). Since leaving his position at Rencontres in Arles, Hebel continues to curate exhibitions at various museums, cultural organizations and festivals from New York to Paris, to Bologna and Changjiang (China).

Hebel’s latest curatorial project, Grégoire Alexandre, in New York City can be seen at French Institute Alliance Française FIAFNY. Also, stay tuned for our Conversation with Grégoire Alexandre, to be published, early next week.

Homa Taj – Were you trained as a photographer? Or, how did you began your work as a curator of photography?

François Hebel – No, not at all. I trained myself to travel which funny enough got me into photography as a reason. However, since 1980, I have been working with photographers at various capacities.

HT – You have been based in france for most of your career…

FH – When I worked for Magnum Photos in Paris (1987-2000), I had to go to New York a lot. So, I am very familiar with working in NY. And, of course, I do a lot of curatorial work around the world.

HT – What was working at Magnum Photo like?

FH – When I was hired to work at Magnum’s office in Paris, the company was in a bad shape, financially speaking. I was their first director in many years since it was run like a photographers’ cooperative. I quickly told them that the world is going to become digital sooner than they thought. That was around 1987-89. And, I remember at a meeting, many photographers laughed. They said, “We’ll, will be there with our white gloves on … ” I said, “No. You’ll be dead.”

Back then, archives had begun to digitize their images only to expedite their delivery, at Magnum we did it in order to maintain the best of our memory. We began to organize traveling exhibitions which brought in a lot of money for the organization in order to finance this digitalization and do our PR at the same time. …

HT – You have talked about photography as an elastic art form, using examples of projections, or slide shows. Can you say a bit about this concept…

FH – Well, back in 1986, I saw Nan Goldin’s slide projection of her The Ballad of Sexual Dependency which ran for one hour and thirty minutes. I told her that I loved what she was doing. At that time, everyone was doing – as some still are now – black and white photography in frames hung on walls, etc. So, I told Nan that you are using this low-value medium which is terrific. I, then, invited her to exhibit at Rencontres internationales de la photographie d’Arles – where I was a director – 1985-87, and later 2001-2014. There we had a great Théâtre Antique where she projected her work.

I did suggest that the show was too long and that 45 minutes may be better but that it was ultimately her decision as an artist as to what she wanted to do with it. So Nan made The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, the Arles version.

At that time, for me, this was a great revelation in the way artists can use photography. Of course, back then, Nan told me that she didn’t like prints. But, now prints are her signature – livelihood, I suppose, slide shows are harder to sell.

HT – What other examples of unconventional uses of (the medium of) photography have you encountered?

FH – Several years ago, I was in a french suburb, after the riots in France in 2005 which were covered by the international media. I saw a guy gluing photos on the wall. He said, “Hi, my name JR.” So, I invited him to Arles and there, in 2007 he did Face 2 Face which included huge portraits of Israelis and Palestinians face to face in eight Palestinian and Israeli cities, and on the both sides of the Security fence / Separation wall.

Meeting these types of artists really excites me. It doesn’t mean that I am against selling works. I think that photography is an important market. You can do a lot with it, you can print books, etc. There are all kinds of languages in photography. My fun, my interest, is when photographers try new things. The market for these types of photographers is, of course, difficult but it doesn’t mean they cannot do it.

Look at JR. He is now a big star in New York.

HT – What projects are you working on now?

FH – Last year, I was invited by Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris to curate an exhibition of works by Belgian photographer Harry Gruyaert. The exhibition was opened on April 14th and will remain on view until June 14.

This was an interesting project for me since what we also decided to do was to curate, if you will, a parallel exhibition at 16 different metro stations throughout Paris. We chose entirely different photos by the artists than those shown at MEP. Also, each of these pictures is 4 meters long which is much larger than we could fit in the museum’s galleries. In other words, we turned the Paris metro stations into an art gallery – in a different way than we treated the museum exhibition.

HT – So you expanded the space of the museum, or the gallery, unto the public space.

FH – I had done similar projects – mixing different art forms and spaces with photography – before. For example, through the years, I invited musicians to perform at the shows of photography that we had organized at Théâtre Antique Arles.

I once invited Anoushka Shankar (Ravi Shankar’s daughter) to perform on Cartier-Bresson indian pictures. And, in 2006, Patti Smith performed a concert for the 20th anniversary of Agence Vu which is a French agency for photographers.

HT – You were invited by FIAF / French Institute Alliance Française, New York to organize an exhibition of photography… and you chose Grégoire Alexanre. Why him?

FH – First, the general public’s idea of French photography is what took place in the 1950’s – Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Doineau and others. But contemporary photography has evolved quite a lot.
So my aim for the show at FIAF was to set a principal about what is going on with French photographers today. What are their protocals? I like Grégoire’s work because his studio is ‘in dialogue’ with the subject matters that he captures. The background, the behind-the-scene, is part of the scene… It is as important as the models or objects that he photographs.

Also, the theme of this season’s exhibition at FIAF is to introduce photographers from France that deal with fashion. And, Grégoire was the perfect candidate.

HT – Grégoire told me a little bit about the process of ‘hanging’ – or, more like not hanging – this exhibition…

FH – Yes, well, we chose not to frame the images – except for what is in print – and not to hang them either. So, instead, we used this special type of glue that photographers apply to stick their pictures to the wall. of wall paper of a great quality that glues to the wall. And, then, when we are done – when the show closes on June 13 – we’ll just tear them off from the wall.

HT – This is your first curatorial work with FIAF New York. Will you be working with them again?

FH – Yes, of course. This is the first in a series of exhibitions on French photography which we’ll be organizing.

I am excited because I like working with living artists. I trust artists. A lot of curators prefer working with dead artists… Not me.

HT – What is your next project? Beside the one(s) at FIAF?

FH – In 2013, I was invited to create a festival of photography in Bologna – such as the one I had directed in Arles, for more than 15 years.

The focus of the exhibition was is on industrial, corporate or work photography and was is hence named FOTO/INDUSTRIA. The second edition of the festival will take place this autumn (October 2 – November 1) which makes it a Biennale.

This is a very interesting event since Bologna is such a beautiful area and there are 14 venues throughout the historic city which we will be using for the festival.

HT – You are a very busy man.

FH – Did I mention that I just organized TEN shows at the inaugural Changjiang International Photography & Video Biennale – which runs through July 26, 2015 at the Chongqing Changjiang Museum of Contemporary Art (CMCA)?

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Homa Taj in Conversation with French Filmmaker Agnès Varda Who’s to Be Honored at #Cannes2015

agnes varda by homa taj
Agnès Varda (born 30 May 1928), courtesy Homa Taj for MUSEUMVIEWS, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, October, 2013


This conversation between Homa Taj and Agnès Varda was recorded in person at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, on November 10, 2013.

The marvelously talented French filmmaker, artist, producer and screenwriter Agnès Varda will (finally!) receive an honorary Palme d’Or at the 68th Cannes Film Festival, which start today. Varda’s predecessors who have received honorary recognition at Cannes include Woody Allen (2002), Clint Eastwood (2009) and Bernardo Bertolucci (2011.


Homa Taj – You began your studies at École du Louvre …

Agnès Varda – Yes, École du Louvre was about history of art and I wanted to know about painting, and about history of artists. I started early but I didn’t want to become a curator. I wanted to be involved in seeing, and in understanding whether it was Cezanne’s Mont Ventoux or 14th century painting. And, there I learned to love painting. So, on my own, I would go to museums … to study art.

But, when I wanted to become a filmmaker – I did not come from the world of cinema, like some other filmmakers – I thought, I don’t know about film but I knew about painting.
I was so impressed by Picasso not only because he was a great artist but because he was changing his projects all the time. He was changing himself, you know. He was constantly discovering himself. And, at the time, when you said you loved Picasso in the ’50’s, everybody laughed about it …

So, in my first film (La Pointe Courte, 1955), there is a profile shot which is from Braque …

And, have you seen Lions Love (& Lies, 1969)?

Viva! Rado Ragni Varda in Hommage to Magritte Agnès Varda's Lions Love - homa taj, museumviews
Viva with James Rado and Gerome Ragni in Agnès Varda’s Lions Love & Lies (1969)

HT – Yes, yes, I saw it last week, here in LACMA.

AV – Did you see the homage to Matisse and Magritte?

HT – Yes … distinctly.

AV – Well, this film didn’t do well at all. It was a flop. So, this My Shack of Cinema (1968–2013) is my way of reviving it. It is the only print that we have recycled. It’s 3,500 meters of film.

HT – The original?!

AV – No, it’s one of the original, vintage prints. But, as you see, it’s faded. So, by using it to make a shack, it’s like reviving something. Like what I did with the film The Gleaners & I (2000) where people are recycling, and saving what is being wasted.

So, this way, the film (Lions Love, & Lies) is no longer a flop. It’s a shack. And, I think it’s a nice experience to just to be inside the film! This is like inventing another way of speaking about or experiencing cinema. It’s not enough to show a film on the screen. So, what I did was try to see what it is like to live in a house that is a film.

And, if you look at it from afar, it looks like a nest.

And, over there, I did a big mural using images and quotes from the same film (Lions Love).

It is exciting for me to be able to re-invent film in another way than the screening it in a room, or in a cinema.

Of course, I have done a lot of films. But, for the past ten years, I have done a lot of installation work. And, for me, this is another approach to audiences.

Also, I did another installation called Les Veuves de Noirmoutier (2004). Do you know about it?

Agnes Varda, Les Veuves de Noirmoutier (2004), Fondation Cartier
Agnès Varda, Les Veuves de Noirmoutier (2004), Fondation Cartier

HT – Yes, I have seen some footage and images from it.

AV – Yes, so, with Noirmoutier, there is a 35-mm film (9 min 30 secs) of women on the beach, all dressed in black and moving around a large table. Then, there are 14 monitors around this film, and there are 14 chairs in front of the installation. On each of the chair, there is a set of headphones. You can only listen to one video at a time, and in each a widow speaks for about 3-4 minutes. We had this shown at the Carpenter Center (University of Harvard), about four years ago, in 2009.

Of course, each widow is very different in the way they talk and tell their stories.

So, this is what I am trying to do. To break the traditional way of looking at cinema using screening, videos, installations, etc…

HT – Yes, but you also do the reverse by referencing traditional visual arts in all your films. For example, you reference Hans Baldung Grün (c. 1484 – 1545) in Cléo de 5 à 7 (1962)

AV – Ah, you know Baldung?

HT – Yes, of course.

AV – Yes, that is what I call a mental image – and, I don’t care if a lot of people have never heard of Hans Baldung. I don’t have to show (the original) or speak about it. It was just important to show this beautiful woman in the flesh, and that skeleton speak to each other. It’s something about beauty and death.

So, sometimes, I have a post card of an image on the set. I don’t have to show it but it keeps me on the subject.
You heard me talk about Cléo de 5 à 7 ?

Agnes Varda, Cléo de 5 à 7 (1962)
Agnès Varda, Cléo de 5 à 7 (1962)

HT – Yes, I have been attending all the events at which you have been speaking (here, in LA)? I thought, one of these days, you will look at me and say, that woman is stalking me. She needs to be arrested [laughs].

AV – No, I am so glad to have people who are interested in my work. Can you believe, I am so old. And, Cleo was made in ’61. This is before you were born.

HT – [Laugh] Yes.

AV – This is what gives me peace in my old age. Because, some of my films are forgotten. But, then, my daughter is so nice. She helps me to do the installations and organize these events. And, to keep a nice group of people working with me.
And, then, I meet all these unemployed people who have studied cinema. Everyday, I meet people who have been learning editing, filmmaking. And, then, there is no work for them. There is just enough room for certain amount of filmmakers. So, it’s a difficult situation for the cinema. And, in France, it’s the same problem.

HT – I have so many questions to ask you.

AV – I cannot do everything [laughs]. But going back to your film about Rodin & Rainer Maria Rilke [René (The Movie)], I love that poet so much. You know Hans Olbrist did, at the Serpentine Gallery, a marathon of poetry. And, I was invited, among others, and I read, I recited Federico García Lorca’s poetry in Spanish. And, I recited Rilke’s poetry in German.

But, the subject of your film is difficult because you are dealing with different arts…

Ok, I am glad you could be here. Au revoir…

And, off went Agnès to greet her old friend, Bernardo Bertolucci.


VIDEO: WATCH of Bernardo Bertolucci with Agnès Varda in Varda’s My Shack of Cinema (1968-2013) at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art by Homa Taj for MUSEUMVIEWS