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Construire l’image

Le Corbusier and photography

A good many exhibitions have already been devoted to the multiple facets of Le Corbusier’s work, but his relationship to photography is a theme that has received little attention so far. Photography is, of course, an essential medium for the dissemination of his architectural work, but this exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in La Chaux-de-Fonds is not only considering the medium as a tool for representation, promotion and diffusion, but also as a means of artistic creation.

This is the most successful example of vulgarization through hanging that I have seeen on this topic so far.

Mario Botta

The exhibition is presented in seven sections, curated by six internationally renowned curators. Since every curator followed different curatorial concepts, the challenge of the exhibition design and scenography was to develop a consistent language converging the different thematic approaches. For each section, we defined one color from the famous “Salubra” palette of Le Corbusier. We positioned the colored title partitions facing the entrance to each section. The design of the displays was inspired by an exhibition designed by Le Corbusier in the same museum in the 50s. He had placed the displays onto trestles, which we adopted and reinterpreted for this exhibition. The simple design and the raw materials (spruce wood) play with the notion of picture frames.

Planned as a travelling exhibition, “Le Corbusier and Photography” stopped at the CIVA – Centre International pour la Ville, l’Architecture et le Paysage in Brussels. Based on a modular system, our exhibition architecture allowed us to adapt our design to this post-industrial space, creating new paths and connections between the different sections.


The first two sections “Biographical notes” and “Portratis of a life – between private life and public personality” were curated by Klaus Spechtenhauser. Both sections retrace the life of Le Corbusier by means of photography. A large-scale chronology gives a comprehensive overview accompanied with photographs of his life from early childhood until his late years.
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“Promotion of his work – The architects’s photographer”, curated by Veronique Boone, focuses on the depiction of his work by the most famous architects of the time, among them René Burri. A film, which shows his early attempt to disseminate architecture and modernity, is an impressive example of how progressively he dealt with the media-based promotion of his work.


The two sections “A secret photographer – Memory and mental photography”, curated by Tim Benton, and “In support of words – Photography and publishing”, curated by Catherine de Smet, are located in one room. Separated by a library box, which serves at the same time as the title wall for both, the two sections are autonomous, and yet connected. The red part of Caterine de Smet presents publications of Le Corbusier on the walls and in the displays, and the blue part of Tim Benton reveals photographic material and footage which is on display to the public for the first time.
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“Monumental photographs – Photography in architecture” was curated by Arthur Rüegg. Presenting the large-scale reconstructions of two frescos and the “studiolo”, the room was conceived as truly monumental in its scenography.

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