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Desire to See: Photographs Captured by Agnès Varda

Schoolgirls wearing face masks and goggles (to protect them from sand from the Gobi Desert), China, 1957

Exibart Street

February 29, 2024


Desire to See: Photographs Captured by Agnès Varda

The Fahey/Klein Gallery is delighted to present “Desire to See: Photographs Captured by Agnès Varda,” marking the premiere exhibition in the United States exclusively dedicated to Agnès Varda’s photographic oeuvre. This retrospective display plunges into the illustrious photographic legacy of the French New Wave filmmaker, offering a comprehensive visual narrative of Varda’s life and artistic endeavors through a diverse array of photographs spanning from vintage lifetime prints, developed and printed by Varda herself, to newly unearthed posthumous works.

“Desire to See: Photographs Captured by Agnès Varda” unveils Varda’s self-portraits, providing an intimate exploration into the artist’s identity, alongside portrayals of fellow artists (Alexander Calder, Salvador Dalí, Delphine Seyrig, Federico Fellini, Catherine Deneuve, Luchino Visconti, and more), emphasizing her revolutionary vision and fervent engagement with the world. Documentary photographs from her extensive travels across various locales such as Cuba, China, and Los Angeles, as well as her cherished home in Paris, showcase her keen observational eye. Varda’s photographic journey predates her cinematic exploits and seamlessly intersects throughout her six decades of creative pursuits. Still photographs frequently influenced and inspired her films, exemplified by Le Pointe Courte and Ulysse, while filmmaking, in turn, became the subject and context for her still photographs. Varda’s eternally free spirit steered her ceaseless curiosity and imagination, defining a robust, clear, experimental, and feminine voice evident within each frame.
“Desire to See: Photographs Captured by Agnès Varda” is curated in collaboration with Rani Singh.

About the Artist

Agnès Varda (1928 – 2019) was a film director, screenwriter, photographer, and visual artist. Born in Belgium, she pursued art history and photography, initially working as a professional photographer before crafting her first feature film, the ultra-low budget independent film La Pointe Courte, at the age of 26 in 1954. Her pioneering contributions played a pivotal role in shaping the influential French New Wave film movement of the late 1950s and 1960s. Drawing inspiration from art history, literature, and philosophy, her films, photographs, and art installations centered on documentary realism, feminist issues, and social commentary with a distinct experimental style. Throughout her life, she maintained a fluid interrelationship between photographic and cinematic forms.
Varda created some of her most impactful work in Los Angeles, where she relocated in 1967 with her husband, filmmaker Jacques Demy. Residing in Beverly Hills, driving a convertible, and mingling with luminaries such as Harrison Ford, Jane Fonda, and Michelangelo Antonioni, Varda produced three films in L.A., including Lions Love (…and Lies), Uncle Yanco, and Black Panthers, each a response to the politically and socially charged atmosphere of the times. Returning alone to L.A. in 1981, Varda filmed Murs Murs and Documenteur, aiming to reflect the mirror back onto the City of Angels.
In the last 15 years of her life, Agnès Varda continued to explore novel and exhilarating ways to present her work. Invited by Hans Ulrich Obrist in 2003 to participate in the Venice Art Biennale with “Patatutopia,” a three-screen video installation featuring 700 kilos of potatoes, she found renewed vigor and engagement. In her own words, she was “not an old filmmaker but a young visual artist.”
In 2017, Varda collaborated with French photographer and artist JR to create “Faces Places,” an unlikely partnership exploring rural France in search of lost traditions and evolving values. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature.
Recognizing her lifetime achievements, Varda received the Palme d’or d’honneur at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015 and an honorary Oscar in 2017, becoming the first female filmmaker to receive this prestigious award. She passed away in Paris in 2019 at the age of 91.
Agnès Varda’s works are showcased in international collections, including the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain (Paris), the FRAC Lorraine (France), the MoMA (New York), the Musée Paul Valéry (France), the CAFA Art Museum (Beijing, China), the Institut Culturel Bernard Magrez (France), LACMA (Los Angeles), and Le Centre Pompidou (Paris).
“Director’s Inspiration: Agnes Varda” is currently on display at The Academy Film Museum, Los Angeles, until January 5, 2025. “Viva Varda,” a retrospective organized by the Cinémathèque Française, will open at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona in July 2024. “Hans Ulrich Obrist Archive, Chapter Three: Agnes Varda” is at LUMA Arles, Arles, France, through May 2024.


Desire to See: Photographs Captured by Agnès Varda
February 29 to April 13, 2024
Fahey/Klein Gallery, Los Angeles, USA