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Agnès B.'s art collection, Anselm Kieffer, Leila Alaoui and Keith Haring in Avignon

By Rosslyn Hyams

No fewer than four exhibitions have been drawing crowds to Avignon's contemporary art hang-out, the Collection Lambert. Hundreds of works collected by French fashion designer Agnès B, images by photographer Leïla Alaoui, 30 of Keith Haring's paintings and painted objects, and a rarely exposed piece by Anselm Kieffer, The Secret Life of Plants.

French fashion designer Agnès B is also famous as an art collector and gallery owner. Her collection is eclectic and as international as she herself has become over the years.

Collection Lambert director Eric Mézil describes his selection as a large-scale, multi-faceted mirror-portrait of her.

He has picked out 400 photos, sculptures, paintings, collages, videos and installations belonging to Agnès B. One entire room is dedicated to works by African artists she has collected.

"The exhibition is laid out by theme," Ilbar explains. "The theme is different, Africa or childhood etcetera, but in each theme-room you will find the same ideas - youth, love and commitment."

Some of the artists were edgy when Agnès B picked them out, helped to set them up, and she understands their struggles.

"I take 'pictures' which I use on my clothes, which I've been doing for more than 10 years now," she comments. "But I'm not a photographer. It's hard to be a photographer today. Everyone, absolutely everyone, takes pictures or photographs."

Tribute to photographer who died in terror attack

Penetrating portrait by the late photographer Leïla Alaoui are concurrently on display. The exhibition called "Je te pardonne" (I forgive you) is a tribute to the young Franco-Moroccan woman born in 1982 and killed in terror attacks in Ougadougou, Burkina Faso, in January 2016.

Alaoui happens to be one of Agnès B.'s finds.

An Alaoui film installation shows images of the Mediterranean Sea alternating with clips of migrants speaking in French, English or other languages.

Thirty of Keith Haring's huge, vibrant and poignant, primary-coloured and black-outlined active works have been loaned from from private collections, and a landmark piece, Secret Life of Plants, by German nature sculptor-painter Anselm Kieffer, who now lives in France, is visiting from the Parisian Georges Pompidou Centre's 40th anniversary events, which involve many museums and art centres all over France this year.

Benefactor Yvon Lambert helped the Pompidou Centre acquire the work in 2003. It is a fragile and has been rarely shown in public.

All four exhibitions are on display until 5 November at the Collection Lambert in Avignon.

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