The fifteen minute boat trip to Porquerolles reminded me of taking the short ferry ride to Naoshima island in Japan. I had a few hours to wait at Toulon airport and when I realized that Fondation Carmignac was just a few miles away, I jumped in a taxi and boarded the crowded Sunday morning ferry to the beaches of this small island in the Mediterranean. This is where Charles Carmignac, the son of the successful businessman Edouard Carmignac, is running the Villa built in 1985 by architect Henri Vidal for his family, art dealer Aline Vidal and her sisters.
It used to be a farm where Jean Luc Godard shot “Pierrot le Fou” in 1965. It now is an art foundation with a sculpture park, olive trees and vineyards planted as a protection against fire and a model of environmental correctness, with a garden developed by Louis Benech.
You better book your ticket if you don’t want to be like me, having to negotiate a quick entry to the paradise. The foundation with its short exhibition in the airy building adapted by architect Marc Barani, (responsible for the Liliane and André Bettencourt auditorium at the Institut and the School for photography in Arles), can only be visited barefoot and takes fifty people every thirty minutes. It’s quite a wonderful experience to walk on the cool stone ground in the September heat.
“La Source” is this year’s theme with Fabrice Hyber‘s murals which are reminiscent of those he shows right now at Fondation Cartier. Bruce Naumann‘s “One hundred fish fountain, 2005, is a wonderful installation conceived with bronze fishes made after those from the American grand lakes where he used to fish with his father. The water falls in the tank for fifteen minutes and makes the sculptures fly around.
Once you have passed Bertrand Lavier‘s “Cocacollage” seen through the window, you arrive downstairs in the galleries. Two large Gerhard Richter, a Sigmar Polke, three Roy Liechstenstein, a splendid aluminum curtain by El Anatsui, “Lady Stroke” by Valérie Belin, Martial Raysse, Rebecca Horn and even a drawing by Egon Schiele, form a fairly disparate collection. But the space and the light are so sublime that one is happy to wander around barefoot and just feel the atmosphere of this very special place.
I chose to visit the galleries first and went for a long stroll in the garden of natural Mediterranean plants with Mexican yuccas and Chilean coconut trees added by magician gardener Louis Benech. In the park, there are various sculptures which are all part of the collection, “The three Alchemists” by Jaume Plensa, “The Path of emotions” a labyrinth in mirror hidden in the sugar canes, by Danish artist Jeppe Hein, and a talc installation by Brazilian artist Cildo Meireles called “Volatil”, in a little house. All are intriguing and well adapted to the vegetation.
It is a pure delight to wander around this space in a natural environment. There is nothing commercial about the art and everyone is clever and friendly. You are welcomed by a cup of cold tea at the entrance and gently asked to take your shoes off when you enter the house.
I especially loved the experience of gently climbing there from the ferry (ten minutes) on a dirt road. The pilgrimage and the anticipation are an important part of the pleasure. There are some bicycles and very few cars on the island. And most visitors, who are only interested in the beaches, are oblivious to this Foundation opened in June 2018.
The Carmignac Foundation is open until November 3, from 10 am to 6 pm. You have to plan your visit according to the ferries from La Tour Fondue (10 mins from Toulon airport). Unless you book a water taxi.
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