Saturday, May 24, 2008

Ile Seguin

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One hundred years ago, Ile Seguin, an island in the Seine just outside Paris, was quiet and verdant. In the late 1920s, Renault built a car manufacturing plant on the site, where over 30,000 workers were employed.

Until 1992, the factory was in full production, with a barge of 500 newly-minted Renaults departing twice daily from the island. After the factory closed down, a plan was in the works to create a museum to display the vast art collection of billionaire financier François Pinault. Pinault abandoned the project in 2005, citing bureaucratic difficulties, and moved his art collection to Venice.

Then other projects were in the works, including an artists' residence, a four-star hotel, the headquarters for the CNRS and France's National Cancer Institute, a campus for the American University of Paris. Now caught in political crossfire, the fate of the island is still up in the air. It seems as though the now-desolate island is like a child caught in a bitter and drawn-out custody battle: the one who suffers is the child. Will it be a sculpture garden? A battlestar galactica superbuilding dominating the riverfront? Only the politicians know for sure.

To see a slide show of the old factory in production, click here. Now there is virtually nothing on the languishing island but bare earth. Tabula rasa.

"Ile Seguin, derniers éclats," is a superb exhibit of photographs of the Renault factory before and during demolition that has just opened at the Galerie Christian Arnoux. Hubert Fanthomme, a photographer for Paris-Match, was one of two reporters allowed on the site to photograph the final days of the factory building over a three-year period. The photos are poignant still-lifes that tell a rich tale. A deeply detailed and evocative expression of faded industrial architecture.

Ile Seguin, derniers éclats
May 22 - June 29
Galerie Christian Arnoux
42, rue de Seine
75006 Paris
01 56 24 31 37


Polly-Vous Francais said...

Here is a 14-minute interview with Hubert Fanthomme on FranceInfo yesterday (in French) about his experience photographing Ile Seguin.


Polly-Vous Francais said...

And another update on the future of the island (in French) in today's Liberation.

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