INTERVIEW WITH AGNÈS B.
When we did our first interview, almost three years ago, you were kind enough to take a walk down the memory lane and recall your first visit to Sarajevo, your first meeting with Miro Purivatra and all of the dear moments you experienced that are connected to Sarajevo. Speaking from a present moment, what does Sarajevo represent to you today?
Yes, Miro and I go back a long way. I met him during the siege of Sarajevo. I was very sad and moved by everything that was happening to your city and your country at the time. You probably already know the story behind the Heart of Sarajevo. I drew it on a piece of paper during the siege and raised money through its sales to provide food and medicine for the people of Sarajevo. I gave my heart to Sarajevo a long time ago. We support the rebuilding of the city and the country even today, but this time through collaboration with the Rebuilding of Bosnia and Herzegovina Through Education Association, created by General [Jovan] Divjak. Today, we fund different educational projects implemented by the association. My love for your city is very strong. There are certain parts of it that I love best, like the grand library and the Ottoman areas of the city where you can find traditional coffee houses. And, of course, I love the people of Sarajevo. I think that they are funny, welcoming, positive and kind. I believe that they truly enjoy life.
This August, Sarajevo Film Festival will celebrate its 25th anniversary. Having in mind that you're such an important part of the festival since its very inception, can we expect you to visit Sarajevo this summer?
As the godmother of the festival, I try to always visit Sarajevo during summertime. However, there are important projects pending in Paris that will probably prevent me from coming this year. We are opening my new place for art here, it's called LA FAB. It's a new foundation and it takes a lot of finishing work. However, I believe that the festival is very important for the city and its people. It's also very emotional, and I think that's why Miro started it in the first place. He wanted to bring the best in the world of cinema to his city. He did a fabulous job and I am so happy to support him. So many great people visited Sarajevo during the last twenty-five years: actors, directors, screenwriters... and it's due to this festival!
If I recall correctly, the last time you visited the festival was in 2014 when you were awarded the Honorary Heart of Sarajevo. What place does this particular award hold in your heart?
I actually visited the festival since 2014, as well. But, that year, on the festival's 20th anniversary, I was awarded the Honorary Heart of Sarajevo, a recognition that means a lot to me. It is normally given to actors and filmmakers, so I was even more honored to receive it. I try to do my best to support the festival. We did 'Sarajevo mon amour' T-shirts and it makes me happy to see that the new posters for the 25th Sarajevo Film Festival also feature the 'Sarajevo mon amour' slogan. They did something very joyful this season, with flowers and vivid colors. It's really nice. I've seen some of the posters exhibited alongside the river, it's really something, gives the festival another perspective.
The festival aside, you are as fiercely independent when it comes to creating and producing movies as you are with your fashion line. The last time we spoke, you told us about your debut film My Name is Hmmm... But, we'd love to know when did you first fall in love with the movies?
When I married, I was 17 years old. That's when I first started going to the cinema with my husband. He took me to the cinema a lot and all of the movies we watched made an impression on me. I watched a lot of American movies, from the 1940s and the time. Then I continued on to watch the movies of Jean-Luc Godard, you know, as soon as they came out. I think we watched all of the movies of the great filmmakers of the time, and great movies such as Les Miserables, the French version that follows the lives of the people from the 19th century. It was a formative time for me.
Can you make a selection of your favorite movies of all time?
Well, if I could name only one movie that would be The Night of the Hunter. It's a really beautiful film. I love the cinema because it is so diverse. In Sarajevo, you have some great filmmakers, as well. I watched many great movies during the Open Air Cinema in Sarajevo that I loved. These were very different movies and I loved the idea behind them.
6. Art is also an important part of your life. You incorporate art in your fashion line, as well. What is your perception of art?
I was always interested in art, various types of art, and writings on the walls... Being born in Versailles, it was normal for me to spend my days in the park, where there was beautiful light, beautiful statues, the water... It was our garden and it was so beautiful. So, ever since I was a little girl, I was interested in art. There weren't that many tourists at the time, so I could really enjoy the artful scenery. It was definitely different from today, more poetic. I was surrounded by all that beauty and it was normal to me. I wanted to go behind the doors of the castle, to be close to art and dreamed of becoming a museum curator one day. Now, speaking of Sarajevo, I found beautiful street art there. I took photos of many graffiti that I found interesting. They told me an interesting story, from the war that I find so hilarious. During the siege, there was graffiti on the post office building. It said 'This is Serbia'. Someone scratched it out and wrote, 'This is a post office, you idiot.' I love this form of expression. That's the Sarajevo spirit. It's really unlike any other in the world.
7. Ever since the iconic Dalí and Schiaparelli collaboration, art and fashion go hand-in-hand, constantly influencing and inspiring each other. You have recently unveiled a T-shirt collection inspired by Jean-Michel Basquiat. How would you describe him and his work, having in mind he's your friend and an artist whose work you personally admire?
It was actually just one T-shirt we did. The artwork we used is the one I own in my private collection− his Autoportrait from 1983. I love his work, it's very contemporary and unique. To me, he is one of the most important artists of the 20th century. When he passed away, I was so sad. You know what's funny, I'm somehow always connected to him, even just by postal address. My new foundation, LA FAB, will actually be located at the 1 Place Jean-Michele Basquiat, in the 13th arrondissement of Paris.
8. You foster many young and upcoming artists. What are the most relevant new artists today that you feel people should talk more about and why?
There are different young artists that I personally admire today, which can best be seen through the work we do at the Galerie du Jour. On another note, there is a great exhibition held in New York this year. It's called Beyond the Streets. It showcases street art, graffiti, prints and much more. It's very interesting to me. They feature many great contemporary artists.
Last time we also spoke about the idea of starting the Agnès b. Foundation. How did the idea evolve over the past couple of years?
Well, I had this idea for a long time; a longing for a place where I can share my personal art collection with the people. It's quite simple, the way I like things to be. I'm working closely with my team to make sure everything is finished on time. I hope people will feel happy once they enter the space. LA FAB will be located in Paris, as I previously said, and it will feature my collection of more than 5000 artworks. It will open in November this year and it will be a place for everybody. There you will also be able to find my T-shirt collections, books, and participate in the screening of different movies... I don't know yet which movie will be screened at the opening, but I will let you know in time.
(Interview was originally published in Gracija magazine, August 2019.)