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PARIS — When Agnès Trouble, better known as agnès b., unveils her prodigious collection of contemporary and modern art in Toulouse next month, she will prove what a people person she is — her photography collection overwhelmingly represents human subjects. “In my job as a fashion designer, I have to love people,” she reasons. “It’s my passion and my pleasure. Even with abstraction, I like it to have humanity and feeling.”

During the last 20 years, Trouble has assembled one of Europe’s most wide-ranging and eclectic art collections, with some 900 important pieces of photography, sculpture, painting, installation and video, from artists including Brassai, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Martin Parr, Philippe Parreno, Alexander Calder, Tracey Emin, Walker Evans, Richard Prince and Gillian Wearing.

This story first appeared in the March 25, 2004 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The exhibition at Les Abattoirs museum, opening April 9, marks the first time Trouble has shown everything under one roof. “I rotate pieces at home and in the office, but never have I seen it all together,” she says.

Art has fascinated Trouble throughout her life. “As a child, the only thing I wanted to become was an art curator or to work in a museum,” she says. “Even at 10, I had the art bug. I loved going to Versailles and going to Italy to look at pictures.”

Trouble operates a gallery adjacent to her shop on the Rue du Jour, cementing close ties to the art world, not to mention underground film and music producers. And she believes that, contrary to general opinion, art in France is going through a renaissance.

“There is a lot of creative talent in France,” says Trouble. “But it’s difficult for them at home because the French don’t like their own talents. To be an artist today in France is very complicated.”

She cites installation artists Annette Messager and Pierre Huyghe, winner of the prestigious Hugo Boss prize, among those representative of the French new wave. “Their work is very subtle and very cultivated,” she says.

Meanwhile, Trouble’s latest fascination is graffiti art. “I really feel that it’s the beginning of something. It’s social and linked to music,” she explains. “There’s incredible energy there right now.”

— Robert Murphy

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