I decided to devote an entire post to this Foundation, as it’s simply not enough to have just one paragraph about it in my post on Porquerolles. It was one of the most immersive exhibitions I have ever been to. There is an incredible sense of serenity when you visit Fondation Carmignac, you are really deep within nature.
Édouard Carmignac created the Fondation Carmignac after going to a friend’s wedding on Porquerolles, where he fell in love with and later bought the villa. He decided to dedicate the entire estate to the arts. Atelier Barani helped to design the space and created an exhibition space that did not impact on the natural landscape.
There are numerous permanent installations dotted around the grounds including:
The Sea of Desire, 2018 by Ed Ruscha. For this you travel into the forest and arrive at an abandoned tennis court where you find a large billboard with “Sea of Desire” written on it, with sofas lounged around the edges of the court (it is quite difficult to leave once you sit down)!
Path of Emotions, 2018 by Jeppe Hein, is a mirror block maze built within a field of tall yarrow plants. You feel completely lost in this mirrored labyrinth, inside which the uneven ground, combined with the uniform height of the mirror blocks, reflects the surrounding landscape in strange, shifting perspectives.
Four Seasons, 2018 by Ugo Rondinone, is a set of large sculptures of heads with comical expressions, each one representing a season and surrounded by olive trees and tall grass.
Within the villa itself, the current exhibition is The Imaginary Sea, curated by Chris Sharp, featuring works from Jeff Koons, Paul Klee, Yves Klein, Henri Matisse & many more. The museum has effectively been transformed into an underwater natural history museum. “It celebrates the poetic power of the oceans and exudes a strange nostalgia for something that has not yet disappeared”.
The exhibition looks at the link between man and animal and transports you to a moment in time that hasn’t quite happened just yet.
It explores the idea that humans aren’t the dominant species but actually form an integral part of a wider community of living beings, linked with other eco systems. The exhibition also challenges our place in society role as observers who stand and stare through the glass windows of an aquarium or a zoo at creatures we have trapped there.
When you first enter the exhibition space you have to remove your shoes (it’s a barefoot museum only – which reinforces the sense of connecting to nature). As you walk up towards the doors of The Imaginary Sea you can hear the evocative sounds of the ocean and actual water splashing onto surfaces.
Works from the exhibition that I found particularly interesting were:
‘One Hundred Fish Fountain’, by Bruce Nauman, is the work that greets you as soon as you walk in, with fish suspended in the air, water streaming from their bodies into a small pool below.
‘Surf’ is a painting by Miquel Barcelo, made of plaster and clay layers and projected onto the walls of the vaulted gallery of the villa in the basement. It creates the impression that you are inside a cave.
A 12 metre whale skeleton, ‘The Rise and Fall’, by Bianca Bondi, suspended in mid air, has an ethereal and somewhat melancholic quality. This work, which forms the centrepiece of the exhibition, lies underneath a pool of water, giving you the feeling that you are yourself under the sea.
Once you have left Villa Carmignac, you feel as if you have visited another planet – and things aren’t quite the same as they were before you explored the exhibition. You reflect on your own role in the natural world and in some way feel more connected to it than ever before.
Thanks for reading!