Escape into the worlds of abstract and minimal art – contemporary movements born in the United States in the Sixties – with a tour of the Espace de l’Art Concret, Vasarely Foundation, Venet Foundation and Collection Lambert in the beautiful Région Sud.
The birth of a new art form
Abstract art emerged in Europe between 1910-1920, breaking away from the omnipresence of figurative art, which strived to represent subjects and objects as faithfully as possible. Instead, abstract art freed itself from reality. This artistic trend is made up of different movements, interpreted by each artist in their own way. The abstract works featured in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur’s major collections focus in particular on geometrical abstraction, or are inspired by mathematics. Let’s take a tour of the Espace de l’Art Concret, Vasarely Foundation and Venet Foundation.
Explore the world of Honegger at the Espace de l’Art Concret
A Swiss artist and collector, Gottfried Honegger‘s work was largely inspired by geometry. In the Sixties and Seventies, he even used computing techniques to create computer-programmed drawings. A talented jack of all trades, Honegger also created monumental sculptures overtly influenced by mathematics. To explore the world of Gottfried Honegger, head to the Espace de l’Art Concret in Mouans-Sartoux – an arts centre founded by the artist himself in 1990.
Plunge into Op Art at the Vasarely Foundation
Our stroll continues at a temple of abstract art: the Vasarely Foundation in Aix-en-Provence. This “Polychrome City of Happiness” was designed by the father of Op Art to showcase his geometrical works focusing on optical illusions. As a youngster, Victor Vasarely began studying medicine and later drew his inspiration from science. Initially a graphic designer, he was fascinated by geometrical shapes – in particular hexagons – and the infinite combinations they offer.
Contemplate monumental sculptures at the Venet Foundation
World-famed for his monumental steel sculptures, Bernar Venet is also a master of geometric abstraction. His creations, showcased in public spaces in major cities around the globe, are based on simple shapes, in particular arcs of a circle. Part of his work is exhibited at the Venet Fondation in Le Muy. It rubs shoulders with minimal and conceptual oeuvres by foremost American artists with whom he forged close ties during his times in the United States, where the great avant-garde artistic movements of the second half of the 20th century were born.
A wind of change
During WWII, numerous European artists fled the continent to seek refuge in the United States. Many of them set up home there permanently and set about introducing their American peers to European modernity. As a result, the artistic centre of gravity of Europe – where avant-garde movements were becoming rare – shifted to the United States, forging a new hub of creativity. Pop Art, Land Art (shown mainly at the Musée Gassendi and CAIRN Arts Centre in Digne-les-Bains), Minimal Art and Conceptual Art all began to emerge on the other side of the Atlantic. To get a better grasp on the power of the American movements, simply push open the doors to the Collection Lambert in Avignon.
An immersion in minimal art
Born in the United States in the Sixties, minimal art also draws its identity and inspiration from mathematics and geometry, using materials, finishes and manufacturing methods derived from the world of industry. The Collection Lambert in Avignon – the fruit of an initiative by art dealer and collector Yvon Lambert – features numerous minimal art creations, including works signed by Donald Judd and Sol LeWitt (“Untitled”). During your tour, pause for a moment to admire “Asbestos”, a large canvas by Jean-Michel Basquiat, and other treasures of Land Art and photography (Nan Goldin). The works are showcased in a sublime setting too: the Collection Lambert is set inside two magnificent 18th-century manor houses in the heart of Avignon.