Fondation HCB moves to a larger new home in Le Marais, Paris

The Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson is moving to new premises in Paris, giving it double the exhibition space, a bigger research space, street-level access, and a place in the cultural hotspot of Le Marais (which is also home to the Maison Européenne de la photographie, The Pompidou Centre, the Museum Picasso, the Museum Carnavalet, and the forthcoming Pinault Foundation, to name just a few).

The Fondation HCB’s 800 square metre new home will open on 06 November [not October as previously announced], and will be further expanded “in a year or two” when a new extension will triple the hanging space from its current venue in Montparnasse, according to Fondation HCB director François Hebel. “Then we will enter more experimental shows,” he told BJP. “It is hard to say [more] as this is not today, and linked to the creativity of the artists that we will enjoy showing then.”

Created in accordance with the wishes of Henri Cartier-Bresson his wife Martine Franck, and their daughter Mélanie, the Fondation HCB opened its doors in May 2003. Housing the archives of both Cartier-Bresson and Franck, it aims to “preserve the independence and legacy” of their photography  archives and help researchers and curators who want to work with them, as well as showing exhibitions by Cartier-Bresson and Franck, and other photographers, painters, sculptors, and illustrators. Fondation HCB also supports new photography with the HCB Award, which it runs once every two years.

HCB Foundation, 79 rue des Archives, render of room H, main exhibition hall © Novo
Fondation HCB, 79 rue des Archives, render of room C and conference room © Novo

“In the new space as we will have more space in the exhibition galleries, and dedicated research room for scholars,” Hebel told BJP. “Our archive centre will offer much better access for curators or researchers of all kinds who want to work on prints, publications, letters, and books, and state-of-the-art preservation facilities as well. 

“We would like to create specific offer in terms of image reading, and also of the inspiring spirit that the young Henri Cartier-Bresson was when starting to travel the world with a camera, after training as a painter, reading a lot, and dreaming of working in the cinema. We would like to convey that photography is a frame as much as an attitude to the world.”

“My goal is really to give a renewed public access to the work and spirit of Henri Cartier-Bresson when he was a young man, and not to create a celebration mausoleum,” he added.

Born in 1908, Cartier-Bresson studied painting before embracing photography, and is best-known for co-founding Magnum Photos in 1947, and for publishing the seminal photobook The Decisive Moment in 1952 [published in French as Images a la sauvette]. He married Martine Franck in 1970, when she was already an accomplished photographer in her own right, as well as co-founder of the Vu agency. He died in 2004.

Born in Antwerp in 1938, Franck grew up in the UK and the US and discovered photography in 1963. She went on to join Magnum Photos in 1980, and died in 2012. The Fondation HCB’s inaugural show in its new venue will be a retrospective of her work, an exhibition Franck started to put together in 2011 with Fondation HCB co-founder Agnès Sire, when she already knew she was ill.

Martine Franck photographed by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Venice, Italy, 1972 © Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos
Pool designed by Alain Capeilleres, photographed in the town of Le Brusc, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, France, 1976 © Martine Franck / Magnum Photos

Hebel has replaced Sire as director of the Fondation HCB, but Sire remains with the organisation as artistic director, working on books and exhibitions. Sire and Hebel previously worked together at Magnum Photos and have known each other for decades, says Hebel, who is also famous for having led Les Rencontres d’Arles, Foto/Industria Biennial and Paris’ Mois de la Photo.

“We have known one another for nearly forty years, and are close friends,” he told BJP. “We worked together for 13 years at Magnum, where we initiated the cultural department and many exhibitions and book projects. She brought the magnificent Sergio Larrain show to Arles [in 2013], and we developed the spec. for the new Fondation HCB venue together. This is how close we are.”

The Fondation HCB is privately funded, and has made its move with its own funds, thanks to investment subsidies from the French Ministry of Culture, the Île-de-France region and the Mairie de Paris. In its new premises, the organisation will have an annual operating budget of approximately €1m, and the Hermès brand will continue to back the HCB award. 

“Not having state backing gives us a great freedom of action,” said Hebel.

Martine Franck is on show at Fondation Cartier-Bresson, 79 rue des Archives, 75003 Paris from 06 November-10 February 2019 

++This article was updated on 30 July to state new opening date of 06 November++

Salvation Army, New York, 1979 © Martine Franck / Magnum Photos
HCB Foundation, 79 rue des Archives, February 2017. Car-ramp access on the floors of the old garage,
which was destroyed at the request of the architects of Bâtiments de France to recreate an 18th century courtyard © Cyrille Weiner
Fondation HCB, 79 rue des Archives, March 2018 © Cyrille Weiner
Fondation HCB, 79 rue des Archives, March 2018 © Cyrille Weiner
Diane Smyth

Diane Smyth is the editor of BJP, returning for a second stint on staff in 2023 - after 15 years on the team until 2019. As a freelancer, she has written for The Guardian, FT Weekend Magazine, Creative Review, Aperture, FOAM, Aesthetica and Apollo. She has also curated exhibitions for institutions such as The Photographers Gallery and Lianzhou Foto Festival. You can follow her on instagram @dismy