Soulages Museum in Rodez by RCR Arquitectes
The Pierre Soulages Museum in Rodez designed by the Catalan Arquitects , RCR, in partnership with the firm Passelac & Roques Architects and Grontmij and Thermibel design offices comprises giant rusted steel cubes. Rodez’s 13th-century pink stone cathedral towers above, strangely in harmony with the science-fiction-like structure.
The museum is the architectural translation of the oeuvre of France’s best-known living painter.
Leading figure of abstract art, Pierre Soulages is the most renowned French contemporary artist in the world. With exhibits in some 90 museums, he has created more than 1,500 works of art and held countless exhibitions around the globe.
It is to Rodez, his birthplace, that he, along with his wife Colette, has made two donations comprising nearly 500 paintings representing all of his work, from post-war oil paintings to his phase of work called Outrenoir.
The colour black defines Soulages’ world but the Rodez museum will prove that his world is not just confined to black.
In 1986, then culture minister Jack Lang asked Soulages to design stained-glass windows for the abbey of Sainte-Foy de Conques, 40km from Rodez and on the pilgrimage route to Saint-Jacques de Compostelle. The abbey drew so many tourists that the mayor of Rodez, where Soulages was born in 1919, asked if he could have the plywood models used to create the windows. The Soulages museum was born.
In 2005, the artist Pierre Soulages and his wife Colette give an exceptional gift of 500 works and documents to the Community in Greater Rodez. The donation includes engraved work, many paintings on paper (including coconut husks), paintings on canvas, documents (books, catalogs, letters, etc.)
The collection is immediately labeled “Museum of France”. The community decided to create a museum to host this donation. According to the wishes of Pierre Soulages, the museum will be equipped with 500 m2 dedicated to the presentation of other artists to temporary exhibitions.
The museum covers 6,600 m² and is resolutely in tune with the times. Its succession of cubes covered with glass and weather-resistant steel, highlighting shades of rust, fits nicely into the surroundings. Passageways and openings offer various views of the gardens, the town and, in the distance, the Aveyron mountains.
Respectful of its surroundings, the building is organised in a succession of parallelepiped volumes (cubes). The intervals remind the passerby of the « fenestras » in Aveyron, which offer a view of the horizon and favour contemplation. Orientated towards the garden, the south wall does not exceed three meters whilst on the the north side of the site , the ‘boxes’ are overlooking a pathway.
The cladding is made of Corten steel also known as weathering steel, the same Corten steel used by the US sculptor Richard Serra. When exposed to the weather (corrosion), this material a protective layer of rust is created.. « The Corten steel, ages with time, and perfectly suits the park’s natural surroundings. It is not a lifeless and asceptisized material. Furthermore, its colour-range echoes Rodez’s pink grey colours. » (RCR Arquitectes) The shades of this steel also reflect Pierre Soulages’ work.
An integral part of the building, the creative cuisine brasserie owned by award-winning chefs Sébastien and Michel Bras, offers a happy-medium concept of bistronomy and gastronomy, in keeping with the spirit of Soulages’ work.
Musée Soulages is a museum in motion; it has a vast temporary exhibition room and is designed to host events of both national and international dimension : for modern and contemporary art, architectural and theme-based frescoes from previous centuries, with other creative inventors.
[divider]Pierre Soulages [/divider]
Pierre Soulages was born on December 24, 1919, in Rodez, in the south of France. As a child, he was fascinated by the Celtic carvings in the local museum and the architecture of the abbey of Sainte-Foy in nearby Conques, and these early impressions would continue to surface throughout his career. In 1938, inspired by the works of Paul Cézanne and Pablo Picasso, he enrolled in the École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts, Paris, but he was disappointed by the traditional instruction and soon moved back to Rodez.
In 1946, having served in the military during World War II, Soulages returned to Paris and set up a small studio in Courbevoie. He began to paint in a wholly abstract style, producing canvases with overlapping black, barlike strokes on a glowing white, or sometimes colored, ground, which he exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants in 1947. Though his rejection of bright color in favor of black set him in opposition to the major trends in French abstract painting of the time, Soulages was nevertheless a prominent exemplar of the Jeune École de Paris (Young School of Paris), an umbrella term for the gestural or post-Cubistabstraction produced by artists like Hans Hartung and Soulages. Though superficially similar to the work of Abstract Expressionist artists such as Franz Kline, Soulages’s paintings are very different in execution: in contrast to the gestural approach of his American counterparts, Soulages deliberately constructed his compositions to create a formal balance.
Soulages generally titles each of his works Painting. He has exhibited widely since his first solo show at the Galerie Lydia Conti, Paris, in 1949. His first retrospective was presented at the Museum Folkwang, Essen, West Germany; Gemeente Museum, The Hague; and Kunsthaus Zürich, Zurich (1960–61), and his most recent took place at the Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris (2009–10). In 2001 Soulages was the first living artist to exhibit at the State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg. He lives and works in Paris.
One of his outrenoir canvases sold for €5.1 million at Sotheby’s last year. In 2009, more than half a million people attended the “definitive” Soulages retrospective at the Pompidou Centre, also a record. Soulage’s average auction price has increased more than 500 per cent in the past decade, according to theNew York Times.
At age 94, the black-clad, 1.9m-tall artist is still a force of nature. He towered over the beleaguered president, explaining his concept of outrenoir – beyond black – the series of black canvases that became his abstract trademark from 1979. They were “more a mental field than a colour”, Soulages said.
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