VU' Gallerist Caroline Bénichou on Her Favorite Spots in Paris | BLOUIN ARTINFO
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VU' Gallerist Caroline Bénichou on Her Favorite Spots in Paris

Pyramide de Louvre at night.
(Pixabay)

Agence VU’ was founded in Paris in 1986, forking off from the French daily newspaper Liberation and named in honor of the iconic publication VU (the first weekly to feature photo essays, which served as an important precursor to magazines like Life and Look). Its 40 members and 60 associated photographers—including figures like Francoise Huguier, Pieter Ten Hoopen, Maia Flore and Stephane Duroy—cover current events and conduct long-term documentary projects and investigative reporting, with styles ranging from formal experimentation to intimate narratives. The complementary Galerie VU’, created in 1997 and timed with the first edition of the Paris Photo, presents six exhibits a year, both thematic and monographic.

BLOUIN ARTINFO spoke to VU gallerist Caroline Benichou about her local recommendations and favorite photographic references to check out during this 22nd edition of Paris Photo at the Grand Palais (November 8-11), where the Galerie VU’ stand features a group show, including pigment prints by Israel Ariño and Vanessa Winship.

How long have you been living in Paris?

More than 20 years.

What are your “can’t leave without seeing this” recommendations for the city?

So many things... Let yourself get lost in the streets of the Marais. Watch the sunset from the ile Saint-Louis while eating ice cream. Discover the Pyramide du Louvre at night; return to the Louvre to explore the department of sculptures during opening hours. Have a coffee at Le Georges (the rooftop restaurant atop the Centre Pompidou) for the breathtaking views, then visit the exhibitions, and then head out to see the Stravinsky Fountain. See the Impressionists and Manet’s “Olympia” at the Musee d’Orsay. Check out the bookstores Artazart or Le 29. Visit the Rodin Museum. Above all, do not miss the Musee Gustave Moreau.

What is the most overrated thing people advise visitors to check out when they are in town?

Les Champs Elysees...

Where would you head for the best shopping?

I would say in the Marais, which is brimming with designer boutiques. And also Le Bon Marche, which is the oldest department store in Paris — it inspired the novel “Au Bonheur des Dames,” by Emile Zola — for its slightly old-fashioned charm and very “Rive Gauche” vibe.

What is an authentic item you could only buy locally in France?

You have to buy cheese, a baguette and enjoy it with a good bottle of wine, of course!

Where would you recommend people stay when they visit?

The Saint-Germain-des-Pres quarter, which is central and full of art galleries and beautiful bookstores.

What are your favorite restaurants or cafes?

Chez Prosper is a real Parisian brasserie at Place de la Nation. Or try Le Wagon Bleu, housed in a former Orient Express train car that has been refurbished. There are great Japanese canteens around rue Saint-Anne. There’s Ma Bourgogne, at Place des Vosges. And Silk and Spice, a Thai restaurant near Les Halles…

What are your favorite bars to relax in after spending the day at Paris Photo?

Le Bluebird, around Charonne, or La Recyclerie in the 18th arrondissement. Also: l’Alcazar in the 6th arrondissement.

What are the ideal spots to see live music?

The jazz clubs on rue des Lombards.

Outside of Paris Photo, what do you feel are the best venues to check out photography exhibitions or collections in the city?

Right now, the Jeu de Paume is presenting two great artists, Dorothea Lange and Ana Mendieta. There’s also the Nadar exhibition at the Bibliotheque nationale de France; Le BAL is showing Dave Heath. The Petit Palais is showing work by Valerie Jouve — relative to Paris Photo, all you have to do is cross the street for that one.

What are the best places to buy photographic prints?

La Galerie VU’ obviously! Paris abounds with great photo galleries, including Camera Obscura and Lumieres des Roses (the latter is presenting a wonderful selection of anonymous photos at the fair), and auction houses like Artcurial and Drouot.

Do you have a favorite author who writes about Paris in an especially evocative way?

There is a colossal amount of literature revolving around the city of Paris, so it’s difficult to choose between Henry Miller, Guy de Maupassant, Blaise Cendrars, Boris Vian…

Which photographer — historical, or contemporary — best captures the authentic spirit or look of Paris, according to you?

I cannot fail to mention Eugene Atget, whose work has inspired many photographers. There are also humanist photographers like Robert Doisneau or Willy Ronis, as well as Ed van der Elsken’s series “Love on the Left Bank,” and Eli Lotar...

What are you most looking forward to about this latest edition of Paris Photo?

I’m looking forward to encountering photography enthusiasm from collectors and institutions from all around the world. There are countless discoveries to be made on the stands each year in terms of prints — as well as books at the publishers’ stands. I love meeting artists and passionate collectors and, above all else, the energy and complicity that connects me to the photographers I exhibit.

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