In memoriam

[1952 - 2022]

Hubert Védrine, President, and the Board of Trustees,
Christoph Wiesner and Aurélie de Lanlay, Director and Deputy Director,
François Hébel and Sam Stourdzé, former Directors,
all the Rencontres d’Arles teams, artists and curators
are deeply saddened to announce the death of Olivier Etcheverry, scenographer of the festival exhibitions in 1986 and 1987 and from 2002 to 2022.

He embodied the festival’s soul and values with elegant modesty and joyful generosity.
He reinvented the photography exhibition with atypical, original installations.
He loved Arles and showed the city off to its best advantage by holding exhibitions in places that were often forgotten or not very suitable for exhibitions.

He occupied spaces and lived in our hearts.
We will miss his humor and sensitivity.
The 53th Rencontres d’Arles will be dedicated to him.

The Etcheverry and Hébel families released the following statement:

“Olivier Etcheverry passed away on the morning of March 3 at Cognacq-Jay hospital in Paris.

A set designer trained at the Arts Décoratifs, he began his career in the theater, notably at the Comédie de Rennes, before being the architect of the renewal of exhibition design at the Rencontres de la photographie d’Arles in 1986.

In 1985, his cousin François Hébel asked him to think about how to exhibit photography at the Rencontres d’Arles at a time when shows were highly conventional and museums closed their doors to the medium. He designed a colorful decor with variously shaped walls, integrating posters, installations, beach cabins, etc. with the visitor experience. The 20 exhibitions in 1986 took place at the SNCF workshops in Arles, occupying the Forges building for the first time. Displaying art in an industrial site was innovative then, contemporary with Patrick Bouchain’s creation of the Magasin in Grenoble.

In 1987, he staged about 20 shows in highly unlikely venues, including a highway bridge, chapels, apartments and schoolyards.

His warm relationships with artists, who were associated with these alternative presentations, allowed him to carry out experiments they would otherwise have considered unacceptable. Above all, this enabled him to bring photography to a wider audience, which increased fourfold in two years.

In 2002, he returned to work first with François again (until 2014), then with Sam Stourdzé and Christoph Wiesner, who succeeded each other as head of the Rencontres de la photographie. Olivier continued offering ways of exhibiting that inspired the entire photography community.

His numerous interests drew him to the other arts. He made many films about artists. For three years, he directed a dance festival in Arles, which Le Monde acclaimed as the best of its kind. The exhibitions and catalogues (Dubuffet, Tapiès, Masson, Prassinos, Surian, Klemensiewicz) he curated for the Bouches-du-Rhône General Council contemporary art gallery in Aix-en-Provence were milestones.

As artistic director at Livre de Poche (Hachette) for 10 years, he commissioned a wide palette of artists for book covers.

In 2010, he and childhood friend Jean-Noël Flammarion created Rue Visconti, a gallery, publishing house and film production company that always strives for the highest standards of excellence. They exhibited and published work by Tania Mouraud, Jacques Monory, Gérard Traquandi, Anne and Patrick Poirier and others. He curated several monumental installations, including François Morellet’s “Les Grandes Ondes” at the Louvre/Saint Honoré.

He was born into a theater family. His parents, who hailed from the Basque region, “came up” to Paris in the middle of the 20th century. His mother, Jacqueline Hébel, starred alongside Louis Jouvet in Knock before training many young actors at the Maison des jeunes des hauts de Belleville. His father, Michel Etcheverry, became an eminent member of the Comédie Française. It was in this MJC[1] that Olivier made an appearance as an actor, as brief as it was striking so radiant was his personality.

A man of many cultures, he was educated by Jesuits and brought up in an ebullient family. He combined deep inquisitiveness with a very particular restraint. This did not keep him from being a great epicurean, loved as much by blue collar workers as by white collar ones, from whom he learned technical skills through his powerful charm and naturel, empathetic authority.

Olivier had a companion, three children, Agathe, Clémence and Odilon, grandchildren, nephews, a goddaughter and cousins who were dear to him and never left his side.

His passing leaves a monumental emptiness for his family, friends and coworkers.”
Posted on 03.03.2022
  • Institutional partners

    • République Française
    • Région Provence Alpes Côté d'Azur
    • Département des Bouches du Rhône
    • Arles
    • Le Centre des monuments nationaux est heureux de soutenir les Rencontres de la Photographie d’Arles en accueillant des expositions dans l’abbaye de Montmajour
  • Main partners

    • Fondation LUMA
    • BMW
    • SNCF
    • Kering
  • Media partners

    • Arte
    • Lci
    • Konbini
    • Le Point
    • Madame Figaro
    • France Culture