Today, you don’t have to be inside a museum to be able to view and experience wonderful art. Over the past several years, many sculpture parks have emerged throughout the world. The idea behind these “parks” is that walking around a beautiful setting in nature and looking at art allows you to fully engage and take in the sculptures’ meanings.
The one park that recently caught our eye is in Provence, France. Under the strict guidance of its sophisticated owners, La Commander de Peyrassol vineyard has installed 60 sculptures from artists representing almost every corner of the world.
This 850-hectare estate is owned by the Brussels-based gallery owner and art collector Valerie Bach and her husband, Philippe Austruy, an entrepreneur and a lover of art.
Bach believes that the art is an integral part of the natural landscape… it is meant to look completely organic. She says that, “Occasionally an artist asks us to clean his sculpture because the birds have done their job.”
Whenever possible, Bach meets the artists whose works scatter the undulating countryside. And more often than not, Bach and Austruy count the artists as friends. There is a lot of value in being able to tell a story about each piece. Bach loves walking through the park with visitors and sharing small bits of information about the artist.
Sometimes though, the story is about the artwork itself. Here is a wonderful story about Jean-Claude Farhi’s sculpture whichBach bought at an auction several years ago. Unfortunately, the piece was not in great condition; luckily, the price reflected that. A year after purchasing the piece, Bach was walking through a local vineyard when she heard someone say, “I’m an artist, and I have a big sculpture at the Nice airport.” I knew that it had to be Farhi’s work, and I replied, “Excuse me, are you Jean-Claude Farhi?” He answered, “Yes, yes!” Then I said, “You know that I recently bought a large sculpture of yours.” “Ah, it is you! But you did not pay enough for it, the work was sold too cheap.” So I said I was sorry, and the ending of this story was that Farhi came to Peyrassol in order to restore his work. The process took a long time, because the sculpture had to be brought to his workshop. We spent a lot of time with his wife and young daughters. When the sculpture had finally been restored and installed, he attended its opening. Three months later Farhi died. Now when I look at this sculpture, it calls to mind many emotional memories. It’s much more than just a sculpture by Jean-Claude Farhi.”
It is very appropriate that this replica of a 11th-century knight stands guard over the vineyard. The winery’s location was founded by the Knights Templar as a spot for pilgrims and travelers to rest on their way to the Holy Land. It was during the 11th-century that this pilgrimage path was first utilized.
Once it fell under the control of the Order of Malta, the path was used to facilitate the wine trade. According to early historical testimonies, it is believed that the first wine harvest was collected at this locale in 1256. Following the French Revolution, the knights were sent home, and the church and state took over the vineyards.
You might forget that the park is actually the prestigious vineyard’s “side show”. At this sculpture garden, more than 50 artists of all different contemporary styles are represented. What we love the most is that here are big names such as Jean Dubuffet and newer, less recognized artists for whom this is glorious exposure!
What a splendid place, thank you Valerie Bach and Philippe Austruy!