What is your first memory of the Avenue Montaigne?
I would like to be able to answer: to have crossed the path of Marlene Dietrich who lived at number 12, the site of my current showroom. But it is, above all, the site of my first photography studio, then also my apartment, which my grandfather, Marcel Dassault, had allowed me to acquire, near his offices when I left the Ecole de L’Air, the French air force academy. My memories also include long moments spent at the Bar des Théâtres, recently renamed the Bar de l’Entracte, where Marcel, the maître d’hôtel, amused the cream of the art world and the press who met here under the same roof.
Did it play an important role in your vocation as a photographer?
I started taking pictures when my parents took us on trips to visit monuments and ruins. My first model was my little sister, and very young, I won a photo contest organized by Top Magazine. Our names were mentioned in the newspaper and my father was furious – it was only two years after the kidnapping of my grandmother! Since then, I’ve never stopped taking photos with my old silver Minolta XD7’s, of which I have about a dozen. Not a week goes by without my photographing the Avenue, its roofs, its private mansions, it gates and reflections. The Plaza Athénée, a near neighbor, nourishes my soul as much as my stomach. Many times, its facade, with or without scaffolding, has been the inspiration for my photographic tableaux.
Why and how did your grandfather and father become attached to the Avenue Montaigne?
My grandfather and father are real Parisians by birth, born respectively in the 9th and the 1st arrondissements. For a Parisian, the Champs-Elysées and the Avenue Montaigne are two names of dreams, symbols of Parisian splendor and elegance.
After acquiring the Hotel du Rond-Point or the Hotel le Hon in 1952, my grandfather implanted the name Dassault at the intersection of these two mythical avenues – what a journey for the little boy from the Rue Blanche!
Can you relate some of your favorite anecdotes…
I’d like to think that Marlene Dietrich’s spirit still lives in the building at number 12 and that I cross her path, because I too believe in the force of the spirit. I had the pleasure of receiving Daniele Thomson’s film crew for the movie Fauteuils d’Orchestre, when they filmed Cécile de France in front of the restaurant La Maison Blanche from my balcony. I liked the way the film was able to bring to life this part of the Avenue between the Bar de l’ Entracte and the Théàtre des Champs-Elysées. Among the delights of the Avenue, I admit that I feel at home in the historic boutique of Christian Dior at number 30: “a very little fashion house, very closed, on the modest scale of his ambitious dream”, to quote how he liked to describe it. The heart of Dior still beats here, and you can feel this the moment you cross the threshold. It is here since 1946 where “the imagination paints, the mind compares, taste selects and talent executes”, as a certain Montaigne wrote.