Selection of photographs, from the 2 million Ahae took from his window, on view at the Jardin des Tuileries

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Selection of photographs, from the 2 million Ahae took from his window, on view at the Jardin des Tuileries
Maple Trees in Autumn (2011) / © Ahae Press /

PARIS.- This summer, from June 27th to July 23rd, visitors to the Louvre—true art-lovers and dutiful tourists alike—will find an extra, singular attraction in the venerable museum’s adjacent Jardin des Tuileries: De Ma Fenętre, a solo exhibition of photographs by South Korean artist Ahae. Housed in a magnificent gallery erected for the occasion in the great garden’s southwestern corner, De Ma Fenętre features several hundred photographs, selected from nearly two million, taken from a single window in the artist’s South Korea atelier over a three-year period.

Each of Ahae’s dramatic color photographs, even those enlarged to 10 meter-long murals, intimately captures and celebrates the serenity of the natural world and the wonder of indigenous wildlife as they’re patiently observed through the inexorable march of hours, days and seasons, from his unique vantage point in the South Korean countryside. With an artist’s eye for light, color and detail, Ahae draws the viewer into the natural scene—be it scudding clouds, snow-sheathed pondscapes, inquisitive herons, wary water deer. Each image demonstrates the photographer’s careful consideration of compositional elements—angle, distance, depth of field and available light.

Ahae first began collecting cameras and taking photographs in the 70s and 80s, but it was a couple of decades later that he had the time to devote himself fully to the art of photography and produce the million+ photographs that would eventually yield De Ma Fenętre. While sharing the extraordinary beauty of his particular segment of the planet, Ahae hopes to evoke a sense of shared responsibility for preserving the natural world at large. His message is clear: “Open your eyes. Look at the marvelous, precious nature around you and do what you can to protect it, while there is still time.”

De Ma Fenętre’s custom pavilion, the first such structure the Louvre has allowed for a solo artist’s exhibition, is essentially a long, elegant rectangle. Paying respect to the venerable structures bordering the Tuileries—i.e. L’Orangerie, the Jeu de Paume and the Louvre itself—the tented pavilion’s wood base cleverly mimics the look of a solid, classical grey granite building. Yet the very fact that this bespoke pavilion will disappear in August (like any true Frenchman) only enhances De Ma Fenętre’s theme of mutability and fragile grace.

After entering the formalist façade at the structure’s north end and passing through a foyer with informational displays about the artist and the exhibition, the visitor is drawn through a series of serene exhibition spaces. Among these spaces are two large, skylit oval galleries (echoing those in the actual Orangerie) that house collections of prints on specific themes. One is devoted to Ahae’s photographs of the sky in all its captivating moods and hues. The other, the Reflection Room, gathers Ahae’s lyrical photographic musings on light and water.

In contrast to the digital C prints in the rest of the exhibition, all of the photographs in these two oval galleries are “watercolor prints”, i.e. printed on watercolor paper that absorbs the inks, giving them a heightened richness and painterly depth of color.

The long central gallery or grand hall that connects the two oval rooms is the site of a pair of De Ma Fenętre’s most spectacular pieces: two 10 meter x 5 meter lightboxed landscapes: the close-up Maple Trees in Spring and a wide-angle view of the pond directly outside Ahae’s window, the wintry Through My Window.

Putting the visitor in the artist’s shoes in a particularly innovative way, the grand hall also features a window, an aperture if you will, centered on one of Ahae’s large-scale wildlife photographs that’s been printed on canvas and mounted outside the pavilion in the garden itself. Four additional wildlife images-on-canvas depicting grey herons, pond ducks and water deer will rim the exterior of the pavilion site—almost like previews of coming attractions.

“It’ll be as if slices of Korea have somehow dropped into the Jardin des Tuileries,” says Charles Matz, architect and designer of the De Ma Fenętre mini-museum.

Located before the exit at the south end of the “building” is a gift shop that offers, among other lasting mementos, a lavish, 192-page hardcover book with 150 illustrations on De Ma Fenętre, published by Editions Assouline. A portion of all gift shop proceeds will benefit the Louvre’s foundation.

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