Wine, Art and Architecture at Château La Coste
‘Infinity (Mathematical model 012 surface of revolution with constant negative curvature)’, Hiroshi Sugimoto (2010), Château La Coste, Photo © oneARTlover
When looking for original ways to experience art, we invariably go beyond the four walls of a museum or gallery in search of something more enthralling, often being drawn to the perfect framing offered by nature. In 2002, the new owners of an ancient 500-acre vineyard in Provence set about the task of restructuring the extensive terrain, introducing state-of-the-art biodynamic wine-making methods and, recognising its topographical potential harnessing their vision to create a unique setting for sculptural art and modern architecture. The brainchild of international hotel developer and art collector Paddy McKillen and his sister Mara, Château La Coste, situated in the small village of Le-Puy-Sainte-Répérade opened its doors to the public in 2011 and has fast become one of Europe’s most desirable destinations for enjoying stellar works of art set against the age-old beauty of the surrounding landscape of Provence.
Nestled into the contours of the land and dominating the site are two contemporary wine-making ‘chais’ conceived by prominent French architect Jean Nouvel but the hub of the domain is the Art Centre designed by Japanese architect and artist Tadao Ando. It is a sleek, precise, concrete heart of a building, demonstrating Ando’s aesthetic vision of line, angle, space and the play of natural light. The architect, who cites Le Corbusier as inspiration, has given careful consideration to connecting the physical building with its surrounding environmental space and Ando’s statement architecture achieves a fundamental thing here: it gives back to the natural landscape. An open air oculus designed in the walkway from the reception provides an aperture to the heavens while the lateral view out across water through a rectangular ribbon window links the inside to outside and the hills of the Lubéron beyond.
‘Crouching Spider’, Louise Bourgeois (2003), Château La Coste, Photo © oneARTlover
From here, the visitor can set off on a 2-hour cultural ‘Art and Architecture’ walk amongst grapevines, oak forest, hundred-year old pines and lavender. A taste of the artistic calibre to come is apparent in the late Louise Bourgeois’ ‘Crouching Spider’ hovering protectively over a shallow pool. This welcoming mother creature of twisted, polished bronze muscularity beckons to the visitor, her fine, delicate legs reflecting in water and evoking the surrounding vines (rather poignantly, the sculpture was installed for the artist to see just before her death in 2010).
With celebrated artists from across the globe having contributed to the project (the list reads like an artistic illuminati year book including five Pritzker Prize winners and renowned sculptors) the terrain is scattered with thirty or so distinctive artworks. Artists were invited to choose a spot on the estate which ‘spoke to them’ so each work is different from the next, all individual creative imprints stamping their own visual story onto the elemental fabric of the land.
Larry Neufeld’s ‘Donegal’ offers a pastoral passage over a small stream at the beginning of the walk, his bridges crafted from Northern Irish slate held up only by the force of gravity and resistance. In the distance, Sean Scully’s dense, monumental ‘Wall of Light Cubed’ sits heavily grounded, a modern-day monolith of grey, blue and red colour-blended limestone and a tangible 3D version of his ubiquitous geometric chequered canvases.
‘’Komorebi’, Kengo Kuma (2017), Château La Coste, Photo © oneARTlover
Another Japanese superstar architect Kengo Kuma’s ‘Komorebi’ structure dapples criss-crossed shadow onto the ground amongst fragrant pines and ‘Aix’ is Richard Serra’s offering of three 15-tonne steel sheets embedded into the earth. In-situ barriers around which to navigate the view, they stand sharply dividing the provençal light.
Walking along a discrete path by the side of some Grenache vines, the gentle hum of insects draws the visitor up to a quiet corner of the vineyard to Lee Ufan’s ‘House of Air’. Stand still and you feel the breeze – reminding the onlooker that the house encloses exactly that. The small monolith placed in front of the house was chosen by Ufan from the domain itself. And the list continues – Tunga’s magnetic ‘Psicopompos’ attracting the attention of younger visitors for a long while; Tracey Emin’s ‘Cat in a Barrell’, a set of seven moulded foxes by Michael Stipe of REM fame, Liam Gillick’s ‘Multiplied Resistance Screened’, a meditation bell designed by Paul Matisse, grandson of Henri, and Andy Goldsworthy – renowned for his Land Art – whose ‘Oak Room’ provides the only protection from the hot, habitually Mistral-whipped land. Cool, dark and silent, the earthy scent of the intertwined wood and bare dirt floor permeates this manmade cave built into a dry stone wall.
While many of the works blend naturally with their environment, Franz West, in signature style achieves rather the opposite. Leading down from Ai Weiwei’s paved ‘Ruyi Path’, his ‘Faux-Pas’, an incongruous bright yellow totem screams ‘look at me’ amongst a quiet forest of tall trees. The irony of its location is not lost on the visitor. Loud and calm in equal measures, this sculpture-cum-bench is a perfect place to stop and reflect, if you don’t mind sitting next to a neon phallus.
‘Pavilion, Four Cubes to Contemplate our Environment’, Tadao Ando (2008-2011), Château La Coste, Photo © oneARTlover
Ando is ever-present across the domain, his illuminating teachings hidden inside his beautifully-conceived Japanese pavilion constructed in spruce. The structure houses ‘Four Cubes To Contemplate our Environment’, originally presented in 2008 at the Kennedy Center in Washington. As the visitor makes their way from the entrance around a narrow interior path in the dark, it is with a sense of meditative anticipation that he or she arrives at the centre of the structure to discover four big, lit glass cubes. Each piece contemplates our relationship with the environment – the waste of natural resources, greenhouse gas emissions and CO2, and the exponential production of waste and rubbish. The fourth cube remains empty, instead an inscription reads ‘future?’, and is our prompt to think about what we can change for the environmental cause and fundamentally our future existence. It is contemporary art at its intelligent best.
Ando too was commissioned to give new life to the ruined chapel sitting at the highest point of the domain. The original building, now enclosed in glass and steel is pierced by natural light from various strategic points and complemented by a large, blood-red cross in its courtyard created with small, pearl-shaped glass spheres by Jean-Michel Othaniel.
Renzo Piano exhibition pavilion, Château La Coste, Photo © oneARTlover
Aside from the main tour and cut into the hillside of one of the vineyards, Renzo Piano’s 2017 exhibition space plays host to changing art exhibitions. Tracey Emin’s ‘Surrounded By You’, was housed here in 2017 and Etel Adnan is lighting up the gallery this Spring with ‘Tout ce que je fais est mémoire’ her beautiful life-long memories transformed into vivid creations of art including oils on canvas, etchings and tapestries. Sophie Calle follows from July with her solo show ‘Dead End’.
Heading back to the Art Centre, Alexander Calder’s 1976 geometric large-scale mobile ‘Small Crinkly’ moves freely at the whim of the Provençal wind, fitting perfectly between abstract intention and Calder’s fixation with nature. And, looming out from the landscape, Frank O. Gehry’s Music Pavilion, an open air space for acoustic concerts and other performances.
It’s fitting that the McKillens have chosen to display modern art here, perpetuating the legacy of past artists near the spiritual home of the father of Modern Art himself. Cézanne would surely have approved of this creative, productive open-air locale. Château La Coste’s proposition has all expectations catered for – ultra-modern hotel suites, top-class cuisine, a Louis Benach designed organic vegetable and rose garden, music evenings, summer cinema amongst the vines, new creative works arriving regularly and of course the organic wines. It all adds up to a heady mix of success and aficionados will no doubt be driving the winding roads up the hill for a long time to come.
‘Wall of Light Cubed’, Sean Scully (2007), Château La Coste, Photo © oneARTlover
‘Multiplied Resistance Screened’, Liam Gillick (2010), Château La Coste, Photo © oneARTlover
Tadao Ando Pavilion (2011), Château La Coste, Photo © oneARTlover
‘Aix’, Richard Serra (2008), Château La Coste, Photo © oneARTlover
The Chapel, Tadao Ando (2011), Château La Coste, Photo © oneARTlover
‘Frank O. Gehry Music Pavilion (2008), Château La Coste, Photo © oneARTlover
The Château La Coste Art & Architecture visit is open every day from 10h until 19h in summer and from 10h until 17h in winter.
Visit www.chateau-la-coste.com for the full programme of events.
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© www.arteez.ch 2018