Marc Cellier's intriguing photographs of taxidermied animals posed in rural French towns resonated with collectors at Paris Photo this year: seven prints sold for €1,500 ($2,000) each on the very first day of the fair. The artist describes his work as "the poetic becoming the political, through the choice of subjects" and told ARTINFO France that these images show how "animals observe us, in order to make pathways into our worlds."
An untitled work by Marc Cellier from the series "Entre Chiens et Loups," 2009-2010 / Courtesy of the artist, Galerie du Jour
The nocturnal scenes are illuminated by street lights in villages on the outskirts of the French capital; the nighttime settings are vital for Cellier, who says that today animals are "considered products" that are seen only in the daytime, "in the form of meat to be consumed or wounded along the side of the highway." He acquired the animals from hunters in his native Cévennes region and placed them in positions that are both natural and stylized.
The artist's previous work is also based in rural France and features forceful sociological commentary. His photo series "Sols Mineurs" ("Miner Soil") portrays the façades of housing for miners, also seen at night. For "L'Age de Craie" ("The Age of Chalk"), he produced a series of portraits of kindergarteners, depicted in isolation in the schoolyard.
Photography was a second career for Cellier, who was once a teacher. He started taking pictures in 2000, and was asked by some friends to show his work in the former Moulinex factory in Bagnolet, near Paris. In 2008, he overcame his reservations about the portfolio-purchasing system at the Rencontres d'Arles photography fair and paid for a chance to show his work.
This system, which Cellier compares to speed-dating, gives photographers an appointment book in which professionals sign up to see their photos, making the rounds at a dizzying pace. The professionals usually breeze through, but at the end of the show Cellier noticed a name in his book that caught his eye: Agnès b. The gallerist and designer fell in love with his work and subsequently showed his work at Paris Photo, where her Galerie du Jour presented his work again this year.
-Grégory Picard, ARTINFO France
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