Bibliothèque nationale de France (Richelieu)

Although the number of visitors may not be the best criterion for judging an exhibition, the crowds that made their way to the Bibliothèque Nationale to see the Magnum photo agency’s “Essais sur le monde” (Essays on the world) are worthy of note, and not only in quantitative terms. For these were visibly not the usual tourists “doing” Magnum between Beaubourg and the Louvre, or professional gallery-goers popping in between the Marais and avenue Matignon, but members of an elusive social category that all curators doubtless dream of attracting: the general public. They came alone, in pairs, sometimes in larger groups: teenagers to seniors, students taking notes, businessmen in suits and ties (occasionally also taking notes)—everyone moving slowly from one group of images to another, standing back, coming closer, studying, questioning, discussing what they see.

The object of this unusually

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