Mediterranean Gardening France

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June / juin 2015
Visit to the Venet Foundation and a talk on local butterflies, Le Muy, Var

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We met at the Venet Foundation in Le Muy where its director, Alexandre Devals, talked to us about Bernar Venet and the creation of the foundation in the beautiful wooded garden on the banks of the river Nartuby (see the Foundation website for full information). Alexandre explained about the devastating floods of June 2010 which left the whole site, including buildings, close to being destroyed by a thick layer of mud and debris. The site has now been fully restored and houses a stunning collection of conceptual and minimal art.

We started our tour in the jasmine covered ‘factory’ which is home to a recently completed, curved, Corten steel sculpture by Venet entitled Effondrement (Collapse of Arcs). Each piece of metal weighs approximately one ton and involves 200 tons of steel. A very unusual sculpture and very impressive! We then toured the rest of the building where we saw various exhibits, structures and wall art.

Effondrement (Collapse of Arcs) Bernar Venet

A tour of the grounds and river bank followed, here numerous steel sculptures seemed to flow sympathetically with the curves and shapes of the trees. We then visited the new gallery, currently showing the work of Jean Tinguely.

Constructed of mirror-finished stainless steel, this building houses a collection of working exhibits, the use of mirrors gave us an alternative perspective to these works.

Machines that serve no purpose Jean Tinguely and Yves Klein

Leaning against this building at an angle of 74.3 degrees is a long straight sculpture which takes its name from the angle. Next we crossed the flowing river through a long curving tube with a square cross section.

This was painted white inside with random holes in its length creating a mosaic of lights. We made our way to the Frank Stella Chapel where there are six of Stella’s recent large relief sculptures skilfully displayed in a unique open sided building under a carbon fibre and sailcloth roof.

Frank Stella sculpture

We returned through the grounds to the main entrance. It would have been nice to have been able to spend more time exploring the garden and sculptures but we needed to head on to Bargemon to the delightful home of John van Zundert and Dick Kimma. Here we enjoyed an excellent Thai lunch prepared by Tonia Mees. After lunch, Pieter Kan gave us a talk about the falling numbers of butterflies, in particular, the Iolas Blue Iolana iolas (the largest European Blue).

We also watched two short films which made us even more aware of their risk of extinction. The use of herbicides and pesticides combined with changes in the use of land have all contributed to the decline of the butterfly and insect population over the past couple of decades. By preserving and planting host plants and nectar plants in our gardens, for example Colutea arborescens (the Bladder Senna) we could help increase the population of butterflies.

Iolana iolas (Iolas Blue)
Colutea arborescens (Bladder senna)

Watch an extract of the film about the Iolas Blue.

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable day. Many thanks to all everyone who helped organise everything.

Text and photos: Linda Cosby