Aurélie Chauffert-Yvart is the director of the Parisian Galerie Folia. Opened in spring 2016, the gallery is located on 13 rue de l’Abbaye in the heart of Paris’s artistic Saint Germain des Prés neighborhood. Galerie Folia is a multi-purpose space intended for photography exhibits, presentations, conferences and other events on the theme of photography, drawing and painting. Its vocation is to contribute to the renown of the emerging and confirmed. Both the premises and the events that take place there are true to the spirit of social activism, humanism and solidarity.
The following interview was conducted in November 2017.
Marine Cabos: Tell us more about Galerie Folia.
Aurélie Chauffert-Yvart: It’s a young gallery that was launched one year and a half ago. In 2012 the Libella group regained control of this building, while they were acquiring Delpire Editions. The goal was to constitute a photographic hub within a larger group usually devoted to French and international literature.
The agency Magnum Photos first sublet this building, it was followed by major refurbishment, and finally we opened Galerie Folia’s doors in early 2016. I entered the group at that moment in order to supervise this gallery project. I had to delineate what we would do, whether it would become a gallery or not, whether there would be literary activities or not. I had almost free reins to decide the gallery’s future directions. Since this building has been identified as a space dedicated to photo for the past few years, it was clear for me that we should turn it into a photographic gallery by following Magnum Photos inheritance, in other words by concentrating on reportage and socially engaged works.
In the end only a few spaces are dedicated to photography in Paris, so we’re trying to distinguish ourselves by focusing on this medium on the one hand. On the other hand, we systematically organize artists’ talks for each exhibition.
M.C.: How important are such events for Galerie Folia?
A.C.Y.: It’s important to embody visual arts, to mediate the audiences and encourage them to engage with the artworks. People are generally very willing to meet the artists and to exchange with them, to open up to further topics.
For instance, during our exhibition on tax heavens we invited Jacques Attali [a French economic and social theorist, writer, political adviser] in order to develop the debate about economical issues. For Ed van der Elsken who drew his inspiration from 1950s Paris and its jazz environment, we organized a jazz concert. We try each time to stay within the exhibition atmosphere while bridging the different arts, photography echoing literature, echoing music and so forth.
To cite another example, for Vincent Perez’s exhibition entitled “Un voyage en Russie” photographs were accompanied by texts written by Olivier Rolin, turning the series into a sort of travel diary. We always try to connect strongly diverse art practices to appeal to our composite audience, made of amateurs, professionals, curators, and journalists.
M.C.: How did you come to know and support the Chinese photographer Liu Tao?
A.C.Y.: I discovered Liu Tao thanks to La Bourse du Talent, this annual prize that rewards contemporary photographers from around the world. The jury changes each year, and I was one of the jury members in the reportage category in 2016. Amongst the portfolios I saw Liu Tao’s one. I immediately loved his oeuvre, especially his bodily experience, his personal risk taking, all questioning how far you can go to create an artwork. I also liked the ways in which his artworks echoed with literary references, we know that Liu Tao is informed by Baudelaire or Rimbaud. Such approach is coherent with our approach at the gallery. In the end another photographer won the Bourse du Talent prize, but I kept Liu Tao’s works in mind and suggested to set up a solo show at our gallery. It was his first solo show in Europe.
Perhaps our reading of Liu Tao’s works differs from his own reading. Maybe he doesn’t see the social commentary whereas we decipher a commentary on urbanism in China, new pilot zones amongst other. The association such social commentary and his naked body explains why he’s often censored in China.
Other Chinese photographers are also of interest, such as Lu Nan represented by Magnum or also Ren Hang but his works are less connected with our philosophy. What is interesting with Liu Tao’s works is that they withdraw the eternal dichotomy between reportage and artistic and photography. We also planned an artist talk with collectors, while creating a special limited edition portfolio on that occasion.
M.C.: Speaking of which, tell us more about Liu Tao’s limited edition portfolio?
A.C.Y.: This limited edition portfolio comprised ten or so prints signed by Liu Tao and based on the three series exhibited at the gallery. It included a booklet with an introductory bilingual text. It offered another way to promote emerging authors in the photographic scene. We wanted to experiment a new type of object, at the frontier between the book, the portfolio and photography.
As the name of Folia conveys a strong literature lineage, we try to maintain as far as possible this link between photography and literature. Publications, the library and the bookshop inside the gallery are a good way to maintain this link. We cultivate a tropism surrounding the book. For the moment we’re not publishing systematically after each exhibition, but we hope at some point to compile a large publication that will gather all our exhibitions.
M.C.: Henri-Cartier Bresson is another author you support, and he was one of the rare foreign photographers to enter China in the 1950s. In your opinion, how significant his China series played in his whole oeuvre?
A.C.Y.: I think it was not only a commissioned expedition but also a personal commitment. The first time he went there, he almost stayed one year. He was one of the rare to be allowed to enter Chinese territory to document the Great Leap Forward [A national movement between 1958-1960, which aimed at dramatically boosting industrial and agricultural production]. The iconic images we know from this period - from a Western perspective - were chiefly those of Cartier-Bresson. This type of event prompted the meeting of history and photography. On another note, it corresponded to the sole period in which he was satisfied by his colours photographs. He mostly used black and white normally. It should be noted that we are preparing a book on this very period with Delpire Editions. It will be published in Fall 2019. It will be the first book gathering his works dating back to the 1940s and 50s, including his colours photographs from China
M.C.: Aside from the authors you represent, what’s your latest highlight this year?
A.C.Y.: Yamamoto Masao that I discovered at Paris Photo.
M.C.: What’s next for Galerie Folia?
A.C.Y.: In 2018 we will try our utmost to be open to world cultures. We started with China thanks to Liu Tao and Japan thanks to Daido Moriyama. I’m personally attracted to Asia since I spent my childhood in Indonesia and Burma.
From January to March  we will host the “Camera Clara Photo Award 2017”, which reward photographers working exclusively with optical chambers. It suits our objective to support contemporary creation, while advocating such traditional technique. We will exhibit Guillaume Zuili, Mustapha Azeroual and Patrick Tourneboeuf, the three finalists of the Camera Clara Photo Award 2017.
Between April and May - during the Photography Month in Grand Paris – we will set up an exhibition about Denis Roche, who will show an exclusive corpus of photographs. It will echo a monograph that will be published by Delpire Editions. During summertime, I have invited a Polish artist called Bogdan Konopka. In fall, I would like to set up a group show on Iranian photographers.
By the end of the year 2018, we will participate again to the festival “Un week-end à l’Est”. In 2017 the guest country was Ukraine, which explains why our current exhibition showcases a Ukrainian author. Next year the festival will be focusing on Hungary. It’s a pretext and an occasion that encourages me to look at what’s happening in diverse photographic scenes.
More works and information: