To build a permanent museum for Antonino's work
Which begs a number of questions:
We'll get to that later, but for now the idea is this:
Drawing of projected Antonino Museum building
Click to enlarge
Anybody who's been following Antonino for a while will recognize most of the paintings so some information is needed:
- The image is a mock-up and none of his existing paintings will be used
- Each panel will be designed as part of a fresco covering the entire wall
- The intention is to convert the building itself into an Antonino artwork, with paintings, stained glass, ceramics, mosaic and sculptures. The museum will be as much a work of art as everything inside
- Antonino and I are still discussing the final design:
- I go for the more visibly exuberant
- Antonino is more for calm, the art is inside
- I'll probably fold...
Beside the obvious priority of showing his work, here's some of the other things we're planning on:
- Garden with children's play area letting you keep an eye on the kids from the balcony, along with chairs and tables to sit back, relax with a coffee and admire the murals and sculptures
- A cybercafé with free wifi for exhibition guests
- A boutique selling reproductions and books
- Suco Bar. For anyone who's already been to Brazil, they'll know what this means: mouth-watering, thick, rich juice milkshakes of extraordinary flavor, including ingredients such as açaï, caju, cajá, guaraná, cupuaçu... Trust me on this one: they are de-li-cious!
- Concerts: we have plans with the Clare Quartet from Holland for performances during the summer evenings including works by Villa-Lobos, Boismortier, Albertini, Taverner... Other musical events include artists such as:
- Retreats: we're thinking about it. All art forms are welcome, although we might shy away from drums and trumpet
- We are also open for proposals: art therapy, conferences, courses, lectures... One thing I'd love is a TED conference
- We're also thinking about art classes with the local Audronnière school for handicapped children
- Every summer, the town holds an art festival on the banks of the Cher. We intend to help build up the event.
A Brief History
The idea for a museum dates back quite a while, maybe 8-10 years or so.
I first tried putting something together when I was in Estonia, something letting me exhibit his work without actually selling it. I'd heard enough stories about artists selling their work for peanuts only to see buyers reap fortunes when they became famous and I didn't want this to happen to Antonino. After I'd bought my first 15 or so I started getting uncomfortable myself... But I also needed to earn a living. One compromise solution seemed to be a hotel with a gallery (in the sense of exhibition space not market place) and I found the perfect building, the former Tallinn station master's residence, with a dozen or so small rooms upstairs and a huge basement below. At the time, Estonian real estate was going through its bubble phase and between the time I saw the advert and saw the building, its price had gone up by about 250%... It was still doable. Almost.
Luckily, it came off the market, otherwise my French business "partner" - and why he's still not in prison remains a mystery ;o) - would have skinned me alive...
I realized I would have to return to France.
We moved to St Rémy lès Chevreuse. It seemed a good place: beautiful countryside and close to Paris, but while it was practical enough for me to work, I doubted its potential as museum location: most visitors came for a weekend getaway to hike, and it was out of my price range anyway. We looked at Fontainebleau - worse. Then there was St Paul de Vence: very trendy and very arty, or rather too trendy and too arty, as well as far too far away for me to commute - worse still.
It had to be somewhere within reasonable reach of Paris, which is where I mainly work, somewhere in the wrong place even, but practical concerns came first, and that meant late-night trains, leaving three main options:
- Rouen, a nice city but... maybe too close to England
- Rambouillet, ditto, but neither fish nor fowl, too near, too far...
- Blois and surrounding region, with a last train around midnight letting me get in and out in a day
That was it.
And then began the long weekends scouring the countryside for something interesting.
- 4000 m² of former mushroom troglodyte caves?
- 16th-century fortified farm on minor road between nowhere and nowhere else?
Below is a slideshow with a couple of examples (starting with my Tallinn folly - click on any image to start)
Then an agency called and asked: "I remember you saying you were looking for something a bit out of the ordinary?..." Which led to a string of "might" and "maybe", "we're waiting to hear" and "are you still interested?..." that lasted some 4 or 5 months until we finally heard the building was available, and would I like to see it?
I'd been to Montrichard several times, and obviously to every estate agent. The town was interesting for two main reasons:
- It's on the fringe of the main mass of chateaus in the Loire Valley
- It has nothing of great distinction to compete with for visitors
So we went to see...
Net result, we now own two buildings:
- A 200-year-old, 1000-m², 5-storey watermill, and
- A sixties’-built, 1800-m², 3-storey factory
- … in 2 acres of land
And are moving onto the next phase:
The Antonino Museum - current situation
On the left is the mill. Antonino will have his studio on the top floor. On the right is the factory as it is today. The first floor - 600 m² surrounded by a 2.4 m wide balcony - will be the main exhibition area.
The first thing that needs attention is the factory roof. A design I like is the Cité de la Mode et du Design in Paris:
But we're open to suggestions.
Many (many) years ago, I read about a strange, wild-eyed postman from France who, every day on his rounds, picked up interesting-looking rocks and put them in his bag. Every day, for thirty years, he added a few more pieces to his dream and created the most extravagant, flamboyant house that a single person has probably ever built (the now-demolished Sutyagin skyscraper in Murmansk province, Russia, came a close 2nd, but I digress). It was his life-time's labor.
His name was Ferdinand Cheval (1836-1924) and the monument he built, now owned by the local village, is called the Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval ("Postman Cheval's ideal palace") in Hauterives, Drôme.
The Antonino Museum is indebted to his work and genius. It, too, is conceived as a life-long work in progress, each month a new painting or sculpture, every year a new addition to the building or garden, every day a new way of looking at life.
Realistically, we'll need paying visitors too, and the Antonino Museum is close to major French landmarks on the tourist circuit, some catering more to coach parties, others to more independent travelers looking for culture, "dépaysement" (getting away from familiar landmarks) or off-beat destinations.
Below are our closest three major attractions:
The Loire Valley
Added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 2000, the central part of the Loire Valley has over a hundred chateaus, most of them well worth a visit. After a week's traipsing around to the tune of infinite variations of the same story, most visitors are "chateaued out" and want something different. If nothing else, the Antonino Museum will be different!