“Fondation Fernet-Branca”

The Fondation Fernet-Branca: Space and spirit…

The scene is Alsace… The backdrop for a story on how a digestive based on bitter plants has led to pure aesthetic euphoria. From the bistro to the museum, via the Fondation Fernet-Branca. Here’s to the foundation’s health! “1,500 m² for contemporary art!” There’s no beating about the bush. Barely two minutes after welcoming you onto Alsace soil, Pierre-Jean Sugier, director of the Fondation Fernet-Branca since November 2013, indicates how things stand. Or rather, the surface area on which they stand… Here, at number 2, Rue du Ballon, in this former distillery set up in 1909 in the Alsatian town of Saint-Louis, a centre dedicated to the creation of our times now thrives. A place offering space, and also spirit… A spot that suffers from no lack in charm. As is often the case, art began here when industry dried up. Indeed, the art centre opened its doors in June 2004, following the stopping of production of the well-known Fernet-Branca bitter herbal liqueur, four years previously. Ricard had already carried off the bistro-to-museum transition when it set up, on Rue Boissy d’Anglas in Paris, a business foundation for the visual arts from the fruits of its aniseed-based liqueur. So if a cocktail beverage from Marseille dared to do it, why not an Alsatian digestif? This is no doubt what the Municipal Council of Saint-Louis said to itself at the time: a strong brand identity, a building listed as a French Historic Monument embedded in the local industrial memory… In the context of a new urban project carried out for the city, two men stepped forward: Jean Ueberschlag, deputy-mayor, and architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte. The project was to take advantage of the cross-border environment to inscribe the town in the trinational cultural network around Basel. Switzerland already had its Fondation Beyeler,...

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Focus on Lee Bae at two exhibitions in France

Lee Bae’s work is currently the focus of two exhibitions in France: a retrospective at Fondation Fernet-Branca (Saint-Louis) — running until 31 August —, and a view of his new works at Paris’s Galerie RX, which is on display until 12 July. The Korean artist’s work takes multifarious forms: from painting to drawing, to video and installation sculpture. He does, however, retain a consistent focus on the natural form of coal, which he employs both in its charcoal form, as a tool in his drawings, or in its raw state in installations. For the exhibition at Galerie RX, “Charbon 2000 – Médium Acrylique 2014”, Lee Bae uses charcoal to create a powerful contrast between the deep black of his markings and the milky surfaces of his canvases. Fondation Fernet-Branca presents four of Lee Bae’s installation works, as well as eighty works displaying the artist’s aptitude across an array of media. The retrospective presents material from 1997 to the present day. Lee Bae was born in South Korea in 1956 and lives and works in Paris. He is represented both in France (by Galerie RX), and in Korea (by Hakgojae Gallery). Formerly the assistant of Lee Ufan — considered one of the era’s most significant South Korean artists —, the pair are often likened to one another in their artistic...

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