Gustav Metzger and Contemporary Art in the Chateau of Rochechouart France
Gustav Metzger Exhibition
Where is Rochechouart?
Gustav Metzger at Rochechouart Chateau - The beauty of the past and the present
During the Gustav Metzger exhibition at Rochechouart castle, now centre for contemporary art, a car was placed within the courtyard of this medieval chateau and left there with it's engine running and the exhaust fumes directed into a glass box that sat on the roof of the car. Inside this box was a plant. When I went to see the exhibition for a second time a couple of weeks later, the plant was dead. What a simple, powerful and visual way to make us aware of the effect that pollution is having on our world. And how powerful to see this in the context of an historical building like the Chateau de Rochechouart.
The Chateau of Rochechouart,(Musée Départemental d'Art Contemporain Château de Rochechouart in French), provides the perfect setting for contemporary art. The building itself has great beauty, but a massive, quiet beauty of simplicity, of light, of space, form, muted, natural colour and texture. The empty rooms have wooden floors, walls of plaster and stone, enormous wooden beams, windows glazed with tiny diamonds of ancient glass. There is a stone spiral staircase, turrets full of nesting jackdaws, huge galleries and small chambers. The castle is a wonderful space in which to exhibit modern art, and the art seems to complete and compliment the castle the two forming a perfect partnership.
Where is Rochechouart?
Rochechouart is situated between the cities of Limoges and Angouleme in south west France. To the south is Nontron and Perigueux, to the east Saint Junien and to the west La Rochefoucaud. The latter has a chateau, a real fairytale castle, that is well worth a visit.
The Chateau of Rochechouart has been a museum of contemporary art since 1985
Bruce Nauman, Love Seat, 1988 (above)
Installation of 2 chairs with motor 100 x 400 x 78 cm. Collection of the Musée Départemental Contemporain de Rochechouart
Chateau of Rochechouart
Rochechouart Castle is an imposing building that dominates the valley of the rivers Graine and Vayres.
It was built by the Counts of Rochechouart as a defence and the earliest visible sections, the gatehouse and keep, date from the 13th century. During the more peaceful era of the Renaissance more decorative elements were added for example a gallery with unusual spiral columns and ornamental bas-reliefs.
The Rochechouart family sold the castle to the Haute-Vienne district council in 1836 and the building has since been restored and modified.
Rochechouart Museum of Contemporary Art was established by Haute-Vienne district council in 1985 and today, over 25 years later, it boasts a world-class collection of international artworks.
It was an inspirational idea to place together the 16th century frescoes of the Labours of Hercules and 'Rochechouart Line' by land artist Richard Long, in a room perfectly formed to accommodate both. A harmony of colour, or lack of it, lights and darks, whites and greys, vertical and horizontal, figurative and abstract. Both are visually arresting, both sit comfortably in their environment and both tell a story.
The hunt frescoes
Next door to the room housing the Grisailles of Herculese and Richard Long's Line, you can see the brightly coloured 16th century murals depicting a hunt taking place at the foot of Rochechouart Castle.
Again modern works of art are housed alongside the ancient paintings. This time three small wooden sculptures by Stephan Balkenhol.
The Permanent Collection at Rochechouart
The Chateau of Rochechouart now has an exciting, world-class collection of international artworks. There are three main themes - history, landscape and imagination, themes that are well suited to this historic building and the surrounding area. Movements such as Arte Povera and Land Art are well represented along with many of the most important 20th century artists including:
Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke, Richard Long, Tony Cragg, Richard Deacon, Gary Webb, Tacita Dean, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Thierry Kuntzel, Philippe Decrauzat, Anthony McCall, Robert Breer, Rineke Dijkstra, Douglas Gordon, Mathias Poledna, Valérie Jouve, Jean-Marc Bustamante, Sophie Ristelhueber, Julius Koller, Jiri Kovanda, Gabriel Orozco.
Since the late 1980s, in parallel to its contemporary collection, the museum has created the Raoul Hausmann Archive, dedicated to this important founder of Berlin Dada and there is a permanent, but changing exhibition of his work.
In addition the museum organizes several exhibitions a year using works from both within and outside the collection.
Raoul Hausmann and Limousin
Raoul Hausmann was born in 1886 and is celebrated as a founder of the Berlin Dada movement, iconoclastic, anti-art and anti-establishment they redefined what art should be. Hausmann was one of the first to invent the photomontage assemblage technique and sound poetry. Hausmann fled the Nazi rise to power in 1933 after the war, he moved the few miles to Limoges where he settled definitively, working there until his death in 1971.
Archive was established in 1986 with the aim of recording Raoul
Hausmann's wide-ranging production of art and documenting the
underlying intellectual currents behind it." (See link below) Over 700
works are currently in the collection together with
personal documents donated by Hausmann's life-partner, Marthe Prévot and it is the second most important collection after Berlinische Gallerie
Selections of works from the collection are regularly displayed in a permanent gallery in the museum and upon request, the complete archive may be accessed for research. For further information Contemporary Art Collection
Matching works of art to space
The chateau has numerous rooms of various shapes and sizes arranged over three floors which means that a suitable position can be found for a wide variety of works. Many of the exhibitions include installations and film which are perfectly suited to small, intimate and light-proof rooms. The image to the right is by Manon de Boer, Two Times 4'33' (a reference to the work 4'33 by John Cage) and is a film about silence. Take time to sit and watch the pianist silently turn the pages of music, and then watch the audience 'listening' to the silence.
The roof space at Rochechouart Chateau is amazing
And what an attic. On the top floor you will enter the roof space of the castle and here you can see the magnificent timber structure of the beams, enjoy the polished wooden floors the brick and the stone. Aria by Paolini has been suspended from the beams and it turns slowly and gracefully in the air currents, its shed 'feathers' scattered on the floor below. It looks wonderful in front of the brick work of the chimneys.
There are superbe views from the windows of the surrounding landscape, making this an excellent venue for the work of Richard long. In the exhibition Eccentric Sensorialities 3 July - 18th October 2010 his circle of white stones are laid out on the floor beneath a window and as you walk around the work the light changes dramatically. On the walls of a small room off this gallery is an unexpectedly beautiful work by Richard Long of circles drawn in mud. Once again the interior and exterior, the building and the landscape, are brought together. It might be of interest to note that the walls of the buildings in this part of France are made from stone filled with mud.
Richard Deacon's beauifully crafted wooden tables are also enhanced by the natural materials of the castle. Their abstract form echo the skeletal structures of the castle roof.
Bruce Nauman's Love Seat turns steadily and relentlessly bathed in light from the windows.
The tower room at Rochechouart Castle provides a unique exhibition space
This tower room is put to good effect by housing works of art that benefit from the shape and intimate nature of the space. In one exhibition a circular light piece was placed in here and it illuminated the turret eerily.
The upside down, Flailing Trees by Metzger, one of his environmental works, are well-placed in that gloomy and chilly spot.
Read more about France, art and French Chateaux
Musee Departemental d'Art Contemporain Chateau de Rochechouart - Details
1st March - 1st October 10 - 12.30 and 1.30 - 6pm
1st October - 15th December 10 - 12.30 and 2.00 - 5.00pm
Open every day except Tuesdays
The museum is closed between 1st December and 1st March.
Groups (of over10 people): 3 €
Schools: 4€ and 2€30c (Haute-Vienne residents)
12-18 year-olds: 2€30c
Free admission to everyone on the first Sunday in each month (March, April, May, June, September, October, November and December)
Musée départemental d'art contemporain de Rochechouart
tel. 05 55 03 77 77
fax. 05 55 03 72 40
Where to stay around Rochechouart
- Painting courses at Les Trois Chenes B and B, Limousin, France
Art and painting holiday, self catering holiday cottage and Bed and Breakfast in Videix, Limousin, France. Ten minutes from Rochechouart and only minutes from the Dordogne and Charente. Tel: +33 (0)5 55 48 29 84 email@example.com
- La Roseraie France
Chambres d'hotes in the centre of Rochechouart. Tel: 00 33 (0)5 55 03 60 08 firstname.lastname@example.org
Other centres of contemporary art in Limousin and the Charente
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