See Contemporary Art Lay Siege to a French Medieval Fortress in a New Outdoor Sculpture Show

"Rock Strangers" by Arne Quinze is part of the "Small, Medium, Large" show.
(Courtesy of the artist / Photo © Philippe Chancel)

In the northern French town of Vez the grounds of a medieval French fortress have become an open-air art gallery, with 30 sculptures by French and international artists shown in the historic setting. The show has been spearheaded by Francis Briest, head of the auction house Artcurial and president of the Friends of the Donjon of Vez. "Like Henry Moore, we think that sculpture is an art of the outdoors," says Briest, who over the last 15 years, Briest has brought work by Calder, Dubuffet, Miró, and Giacometti to Vez.

Called "Small, Medium, Large," and co-curated by Susanne van Hagen, the show highlights the different sizes of work on view, from Pablo Reinoso's life-sized twisted metal bench, to Joana Vasconcelos's lacy jug rising over the trees, to Bernar Venet's "Lignes Obliques" ("Oblique Lines"), which rival the fortress's towers in height. Several of the pieces were created especially for the site and are well-hidden in landscape architect Pascal Cribier's shrubs and forests. Carsten Höller's "Giant Triple Mushroom" surprises wanderers on a small hiking path, while Robert Combas's "Pot de Jambes" ("Pot of Legs") is partly concealed by plants, with women's legs sticking out above the foliage.

All the sculptures are for sale, and about 10 of them have already been acquired, mostly by private foundations seeking to expand their collection with pieces to show outdoors. The prices range from €5,000 ($6,750) for Tony Matelli's hyperrealist flower pots to half a million euros for Venet's enormous girders. According to Briest, the show's commercial aspect did not influence the choice of works, which "corresponds to today's tastes." "We should have 15 or 17 nationalities represented, and juxtapose their works with architecture and nature," Briest said. "This responds to the work of artists who create pieces that are generally large — or even monumental."


To see images from the show at the Donjon de Vez, click on the photo gallery at left.