National Museum

(2004 – 2019)

“No, it is not the ‘literature of the absurd’ that first comes to mind when I think of Marc Lathuillière’s photographs; but rather those strange science-fiction short stories where the characters, captured in a time warp, are forced to repeat indefinitely the same gestures (…). These short stories anyhow take place in beautiful weather, beneath a spotless and permanently blue sky. Storms and clouds make instantly for drama; but tragedy, like absolute happiness, requires a constant azure”.

Michel Houellebecq, foreword to Musée National, La Martinière editions, 216 p., 2014

A critical work on national identity, Musée national is a corpus of around 1000 contextual portraits of Frenchmen and Frenchwomen, each wearing an identical mask, that Marc Lathuillière has been developing for the last 15 years.

Defacing and freezing the subjects, the mask casts daily surroundings in an estranging light, revealing the stereotypes upon which they build their lives: clothing, furniture, architecture, landscape, professional or daily rituals… Showing France as a museum, the series exposes a country whose people, fearful of the future, increasingly define themselves in terms of heritage and memory. It also explores the construction of identities, both individual and collective.

National Museum met with a significant critical and public success since the 2014 Month of Photography in Paris, where Marc Lathuillière organized a double exhibition with Michel Houellebecq, both in galleries and Paris train stations. The writer wrote the foreword of Musée national, a catalogue of the first ten years of the series published by Editions de La Martinière. The Neuflize Vie Foundation as well as the Musée Français de la Photographie and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BnF) have acquired prints from this wide inventory, the later in the prospect of French Landscapes, the retrospective on landscape photography it hosted in 2017. It followed two large solo shows, one with anthropologist Marc Augé at La Friche La Belle de Mai in Marseille, the other at the Creux de l’Enfer (Thiers) one of France’s foremost art centers, for the Lyon Biennale, coupled with a long term exhibition at Galeries Lafayette Clermont-Ferrand. The series has also been exhibited in group shows at Photoszene Festival in Cologne, Paris Photo, Photo London, the Musée d’art moderne et contemporain de Strasbourg (MAMCS), Kolga Tbilisi Photo in Georgia.

Related Documents


Conversation, Pascal Beausse – Marc Augé
On The Anthropologist and the Photographer
La Friche La Belle de Mai, Marseille,
English and French

MOUVEMENT – Conversation, Michel Poivert – Michel Houellebecq – Marc Lathuillière
“Hôtel France”
Mouvement, 2015

Conversation, Frédéric Bouglé – Marc Lathuillière
“Le visage d’un être de conjecture”
Musée national, La Martinière


LE POINT – Paris, 1st October, 2020
La France avec un masque, Michel Houellebecq and Christophe Ono-dit-Biot

Michel Houellebecq ist ein ziemlich ungefährlicher Zeitgenosse, Claudia Mäder

– Milan, 18 October 2020
Le Maschere Dei Francesi, Michel Houellebecq and Stefano Montefiori

FRANCE INTERParis, 21 October, 2018
Marc Lathuillière ou l’art du masquage, interview by Brigitte Patient

BEAUX ARTS – Paris, October 2014
La France vue par Houellebecq et Lathuillière

LCI – Paris, 25 novembre 2014
5-7h interview of Marc Lathuillière by Michel Field

Le photographe Marc Lathuillière tombe le masque
by Hugo Saadi


Paysages français – une aventure photographique, catalogue, Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BnF) editions

Musée National, foreword by Michel Houellebecq. La Martinière editions

Musée National
by Marc Lathuillière

Month of Photography in Paris, catalogue, Actes Sud editions