Three Shows to See in the French Provinces this Summer

Art in Unexpected Places in France

June 28, 2017By Claudia BarbieriExhibitions, Farther Afield
On show at the Villa Datris: “Why Does Strange Fruit Always Look so Sweet” (1998-2015), by Johan Creten (left), and “All about Happiness” (2013), by Yayoi Kusama. Photos: Pierre Guerville, Odyance (left) and © Yayoi Kusama, Ota Fine Arts Tokyo/Singapore and Victoria Miro, London

At the Villa Datris, a foundation for contemporary sculpture in picturesque L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, in the Vaucluse region of Provence, this year’s summer exhibition explores nature in its multitude of facets – peaceful, tumultuous, marvellous and disquieting, ranging from the Garden of Eden to ecological catastrophe.

Running until November 1, the show “De Nature en Sculpture,” brings together museum-quality works by an international group of 65 artists, among them the Belgian ceramist Johan Creten’s troubling meditation on metamorphosis, “Why Does Strange Fruit Look so Sweet,” and Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s ode to joy, “All about Happiness.”

Other artists include Michel Blazy, David Nash, Giuseppe Penone and Eva Jospin. An installation by Nils-Udo graces the gardens of the villa.

Fondation Villa Datris: 7, avenue des 4 Otages, 84800 L’Isle-sur-la Sorgue. Tel: 04 90 95 23 70.

The Art Center at Château La Coste, designed by Tadao Ando. © Tadao Ando Chateau La Coste 2016. Photo © Andrew Pattman 2016
“Lean Back,” by Tracey Emin. Photo: Mike Bruce

Not far from L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, set among vineyards in the countryside between the Luberon Natural Park and Aix-en-Provence, Château La Coste is a celebrated biodynamic winemaker, boutique hotel and art center.

This summer the château is celebrating the completion of a permanent installation by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. Called “Ruyi Path” – a reference to the ceremonial scepter that symbolizes power and good fortune in Chinese history – it’s a pathway that weaves between forest trees to connect two ancient routes on the property. Both sculptural and architectural, built with salvaged cobblestones from the neighboring port of Marseilles, it gives a new life to stones rich in the history of Mediterranean trade and migration.

Also over the summer months, works by British artist Tracy Emin and Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto will be on show at the château. “Surrounded by You,” Emin’s first French monographic exhibition, runs through August 31. Twelve paintings sum up her work over the last 10 years, together with two monumental bronze sculptures made specially for this exhibition. Sugimoto’s show, “The Sea and the Mirror,” will run until September 3.

Château La Coste: 2750, route de la Cride, 13610 Le Puy Ste Réparade.

The renovated 18th-century charterhouse at the Château Chasse-Spleen houses an art center, three B&B rooms and a wine bar.
“Wind” (2010), a musical artwork by “sound sculptor” Rolf Julius. Photo: Florent Larronde

In the Bordeaux area of western France, another contemporary arts space has just opened in an even more famous vineyard: Château Chasse-Spleen, one of France’s top wine-making houses, which already had a sculpture park featuring such artists as Felice Varini, Liam Gillick, Patrick Neu, Anita Molinero and many more.

Owners Céline and Jean-Pierre Foubet are showing off works from their contemporary art collection in the 18th-century former charterhouse next to their château through October. The first exhibition is dedicated to contemporary “sound sculptor” Rolf Julius.

Château Chasse-Spleen: 32, chemin de la Raze, 33480 Moulis en Médoc. Tel: 05 56 58 02 37.

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