Domaine du Muy, an enchanted sculpture kingdom in Provence

Sol LeWitt, 1-2-3 Tower, 1993


Three years ago, a series of flattering articles in the French and American press alerted me to the success of Jean Gabriel Mitterrand’s sculpture park in le Muy, a  little town, an hour north of St Tropez and west of Cannes. There was some mystery around his project and I never got around to visiting it until Anne Laure Gillet de Osma, the wife of a prominent Madrid art dealer and art historian, took me there last month. It was an enchanting visit at 6 pm, in the golden light of Massif des Esterelles and its red rocks. A few miles away, Bernar Venet, the well known French sculptor who is still based in New York, has opened his Foundation with a spectacular warehouse full of  monumental works and a large park of sculptures.

Wang Du, “Image retouched”, 2015

When Jean Gabriel Mitterrand, the owner of a gallery in the Marais and former minister Frédéric Mitterrand’s brother, welcomed us in Domaine du Muy, he was as relaxed and cheerful as it had been difficult to find his magical place.

First you have to get on his website and ask for permission to visit, which is granted only to his clients and friends, art historians or curators. It is best to be recommended. Then you have to drive through two gates in a private park in complete wilderness.

Jean Gabriel and son Edward Mitterrand have undertaken a gigantic project with this sculpture park. In the background you can see Subodh Gupta’s “A giant leap of faith”.

His house redesigned by India Mahdavi, the Iranian architect based in Paris, has an overwhelming view of the garrigue, a wild forest of oaks and mediterranean plants tamed in a natural way by garden designer Louis Benech. Over twelve hectars (28 acres) he has installed 40 monumental sculptures by major International artists. They are all for sale. If you go, take good walking shoes, a hat and all your energy. Evian water will be provided by the gracious host.

Claude Lalanne, “Apple from New York”, 2006

From the terrace of the house our appetite was enhanced by « Floating lentils » by Marta Pan and «  A giant leap of faith » by Subodh Gupta. His recent exhibition at Monnaie de Paris fascinated me and I was happy to run into this column of 13 buckets, shining in the strong sun. And shining and reflections is what I liked best in this « Domaine du Muy ».

Francisco Sobrino, “Unstable Transformation” 1963-2014

The shining “New York apple” by Claude Lalanne, 2006, the shining David Saltiel “4 centres defining a square “, the « Cloud cities » by Tomas Saraceno, the « Rock stone » by Arik Levy, 2015,  Anne and Patrick Poirier’s « Fabric of memory », 2008 and Francisco Sobrino’s « Unstable transformation » are all a true surprise when you fall upon them in the forest.

Keith Haring, Untitled, 1985

There are some ironic pieces by Keith Haring and Wang Du but the general impression is of great wilderness with art emerging around a little path. I was terrified to run into snakes but instead, the wonderful surprise was to be picked up unexpectedly in a golf cart by charming Victor Mitterrand, the owner’s 14 year old grand son, who zoomed us back to the gallery and a lovely glass of champagne.

Tomas Saraceno’s sculpture in the gallery

Next year the park will be open from April to October and it will be nice to visit it in the cool months. Domaine du Muy, by appointment only.

Fondation Bernard Venet has a spectacular sculpture garden

At Fondation Bernar Venet the welcome was just as charming with Diane, the artist’s wife. The property is located in the village of le Muy and consists of a large factory turned into an exhibition space for Venet’s huge sculptures (a 200 ton series of arches) and a large property around it with a mill where the family lives in the winter.

As you exit the warehouse, a beautiful pool surrounded by palm trees makes you feel suddenly in Palm Beach. At the moment, a special exhibition of Yves Klein‘s “Pure Pigment”, celebrates the 90 th anniversary of his birth. He died prematurely in 1962.

A permanent indoor installation by James Turrell and a skyspakce similar to the one in Dallas and in Cornwall provide magical emotions. A chapel installed on the lawn in 2014 by Frank Stella completes a very “New York” style sculpture collection.

Bernar Venet, “Effondrement”, is made of 200 tons of Corten

The park can be visited on Thursdays and Fridays if you reserve on the internet at Fondation Venet and it is completely manicured.

The artist was born in Alpes de Haute Provence and spent most of his career in New York. He travels constantly for his shows, has many pieces in American private collections but unfortunately, was not there when we went because he was installing a new show “Angles and Points”, in Knokke le Zoute at Guy Pieters Gallery. I love his latest smaller sculptures which were hanging on the walls.

In front of the house, palm trees and more sculptures by Bernar Venet

He has brought to the Mediterranean coast (Le Muy is inland)  top American sculptors and this foundation forms a great duet with galerie Mitterrand. Some Russian collectors had just flown in to visit both as we did…(until September 14)

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