Thomas Mailaender —
Les Belles Images

The MEP gives a Carte Blanche to Thomas Mailaender, with his first major retrospective in Paris. The multimedia artist, who pushes the boundaries of photographic experimentation by exploring a wide variety of images and a range of innovative and original processes, will take over both floors of the MEP.

From 2024 June 12 to 2024 September 29

Based in Marseille, Mailaender undertakes a wide range of obsessive and passionate visual research through the use of different photographic source material and techniques, deploying highly unusual materials and installations in an institutional context. Situated at the intersection of several disciplines, Mailaender’s artistic practice questions the role and primary function of the image through a diverse multidisciplinary approach to photography, and its associated archival tendencies.

His installations, which are often monumental in scale, question the place of the image in our society, and its materiality, by incorporating not only photographs found online, but also those found in flea markets and garage sales. An avid collector of anonymous images, Thomas Mailaender has assembled an archive of over 11,000 documents in a major collection entitled “The Fun Archive”, a substantial part of which will be on show. Exploring digital archives, the artist draws attention to unusual vernacular images that highlight the absurdity of human behavior and the impact of online sharing platforms. Symptomatic of our ultra-connected societies, the subjects explored by Mailaender explore the role and primary function of the image as a cultural object, and its reappropriation for artistic purposes.

This Carte Blanche will feel a little like an experimental photographic laboratory, the diversity of the visual proposals questioning our relationships with images and the daily consequences of their circulation and consumption. Led by the artist’s interventions, the exhibition will put the legitimacy of creative processes at the centre of its concerns and by moving away from the traditional frameworks of visual display, Les Belles Images represents a major innovative approach for the MEP as a photography museum.

The exhibition will bring together a vast array of pieces with work specially designed for the show, such as “Fail Anthology”, “Extreme Retouch” and the “Chemical Room”, for example, which will be covered with photographs exposed directly onto the walls. Spread over the two floors of the MEP, the exhibition will include “Les Belles Images”, the eponymous series in which the artist redeploys press agency photographs with ceramic frames, as well as his major series “Extreme Tourism”, “Gone Fishing”, and “Illustrated People”. Finally, the “Life and Adventures of a Silver Woman on Planet earth” revisits the life and commitment of Rosemary Jacobs, an American activist who was a victim of the ravages of silver nitrate, using photography to document her story and denounce the use of this compound for medical purposes.


Thomas Mailaender

Thomas Mailaender’s work has been shown in numerous French and international institutions, including MoMA PS1 in New York, Foam in Amsterdam, SFMOMA, the Saatchi Gallery, Tate Modern, the Palais de Tokyo and the Rencontres d’Arles. His first retrospective, The Fun Archive, was organised at the NRW Forum in Düsseldorf in 2017, two other solo exhibitions will follow, Ultra-violets in La Chambre, Strasbourg, in 2022 and Lumière Passion at the Centre Photographique Marseille in 2022.


From the series “Les Belles Images”, 2010 © Thomas Mailaender

De la série « Illustrated People », 2013 © Thomas Mailaender

De la série « Life and Adventures of a Silver Woman on Planet Earth », 2024 © Thomas Mailaender

Thomas Mailaender

De la série « Les Belles Images », 2010 © Thomas Mailaender

De la série « Extreme Tourism », 2011 © Thomas Mailaender

De la série « Gone Fishing », 2016 © Thomas Mailaender

De la série « Bookworm », 2021 © Thomas Mailaender

De la série « Papier Mâché », 2011 © Thomas Mailaender

De la collection « Sunset Books » © Thomas Mailaender

De la série « Sponsoring », 2011 © Thomas Mailaender

De la série « Lava », 2015-2022 © Thomas Mailaender

De la série « The Fun Archaeology », 2018 © Thomas Mailaender

  • Press kit


  • Press visuals

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Partners and Patrons

Institutional partner

Partners and Patrons


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