Concert Reviews | CD Reviews | DVD Reviews | Opera | Early Music | News | Film | Art | Books | Kids

1.7.13

Modern Meets Medieval in Montmajour

Montmajour was a Benedictine abbey founded in the 10th century on an island near the town of Arles. Now a protected national monument, the restored monastery is the site of an exhibit, Mon île de Montmajour, curated by Christian Lacroix, of contemporary glass sculpture, from the Centre de recherche sur le verre et les arts plastiques (Cirva) and mostly not exhibited previously. Florence Evin covered the exhibit in an article (Montmajour, l'île mystérieuse de Christian Lacroix, June 29) for Le Monde (my translation and links added):
[The Arles-born Lacroix], a poet as curious as he is discriminating, spent his childhood in his "isle of Montmajour" with the kids of the countryside: "It was a land of wonderful games, and we used to come there on our little bikes or on foot like Van Gogh, through the fields." His eyes sparkle climbing up the cemetery carved into the rock: "As a child, this used to fascinate me. We used to lie down in the tombs. According to legend, the people supposedly joined with Charlemagne to fight the Saracens." Dozens of bare caverns remain here.

Lacroix once again has taken hold of the monument to "inhabit" it with artists, sculptors, designers, theater directors, photographers, whose works he has distributed while redesigning the space. He has also put his own treasures and magic objects (gris-gris). In the ambulatory lit by murder-holes, the translucent cups of Concept 7 (1994/2003) by Robert Wilson, aligned on bare wood like chalices on an altar, capture the vibrations of the light. The Little Red Angel of Marseille (1991/1993) by James Lee Byars, drops of blood-red glass on the ground, evokes a sacrifice. On the stones, black traces left by the fire in August 1944, when the abbey was transformed into an arms depot by the Germans, give witness to the horror.

Occupying the choir in all its height, Beautiful Steps #4 by Lang-Baumann (2009 -- pictured above, Ed.), a Jacob's Ladder suspended in the emptiness, shines like a ray of hope. In the 14th-century keep and the little Chapelle Sainte-Croix, the Cortège endormi by Jean-Michel Othoniel (2003) and Tempus Fugit (2002-2004), the six red bells of blown glass by Javier Perez, make their voices heard.
The exhibit is timed to celebrate the restoration of the abbey's little Romanesque cloister, with fabulous animal carvings, on which the Centre des Monuments Nationaux spent a million euros. It is happening at the same time as the Rencontres d'Arles, an attempt to bring the site closer to the cultural scene in Arles, which is just five kilometers away.

No comments: