Ile de Ré, an island off la Rochelle which has become a very posh holiday destination, was for an evening, the rendez vous of many Parisian art lovers. 28 artists who have a special relationship to the place, gave a painting or a drawing for the restoration of the church of Saint Etienne d’Ars en Ré. The particularity of its 40 m high spire is that it is partly in tar, partly painted with chalk. This grey and white contrast makes it a symbol of the island as eloquent as the Eiffel tower in Paris and it can be seen by sailors from 20 kms afar, even in the fog.
For anyone entering the small town of Ars, the steeple of Saint Etienne is a landmark. Its color is intriguing and unique and it is very poetic. Many famous people spend their summers in there, including former Prime minister Lionel Jospin and his famous daughter Eva, an excellent artist. Actress Nathalie Baye, who had a daughter Laura Smet with Johnny Halliday, lives a few houses away from writer and journalist Jérôme Dumoulin who reported for the Diary on this event. His first novel “le Phare des Baleines” was dedicated to the island and he calls the spear, “la Flèche qui déchire le ciel, “amer” noir et blanc”. An “amer” is a seamark and this is why this particular spear is so famous. It has saved many lives at sea. Pierre Wiazemski, who often spends July with him, contributed two wonderful drawings under his pen name of Wiaz.
Richard Texier and Olivier Suire, François Cante-Pacos and Françoise Toulouse also gave paintings as did their colleagues from Ré, Eric Babaud, Laurence Jean-Bart and Katherine Margaritis. The Maison Caillaux, near the church, where the cocktail party took place, was packed for the opening and Jean Louis Olivier, mayor of Ars, could be proud of the event organized by Stanislas de Quercize and Valérie Solvit. All proceeds from the sales of artworks will go to the 1M5 bill of restoring the church.
It has taken twenty years to complete this project and the very noble gathering of actors, writers, artists and musicians including the Casadesus family, was proof of the interest generated by this lovely church. Ars en Ré has the most colourful market, harbor and cafés, where you meet everyone at breakfast time. If you are in the area this summer, don’t miss this town and contribute to the restoration of the spire.
The catalog of all paintings can be bought at town hall in Ars en Ré.
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