An hour or so west of Antibes in the South of France lies the village of Le Muy, home to one of France’s greatest living artists, Bernar Venet. His striking abstract sculpture will be familiar to anyone who last year visited Cliveden, where his work was exhibited all summer in the gardens, or indeed Regent’s Park in London, where 17 Acute Unequal Angles, an arresting cathedral-like structure, rose 25ft into the air and was for many the highlight of the Frieze Sculpture Park that ran from July to October.
Le Muy has since 2014 also been home to Venet’s foundation, which is open to the public from June until September 14, and shows not only his own installations, but works by Donald Judd and Sol LeWitt, whom he knew, as well as Anthony Caro, Tony Cragg, Dan Flavin, Richard Long and Frank Stella, who designed a chapel for the 10-acre estate. There is much to see but should you wish to visit be sure to plan ahead: it is advisable to book in advance; the site is closed at weekends; tours are only in French.
Stay at the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, however, or its freshly refurbished sister Oetker Collection property Chateau Saint-Martin & Spa, just outside Vence, each less than 50 miles away, and guests can avail themselves of what Martin Tonks, creative director of what one might style Oetker’s lifestyle division, calls “a money-can’t-buy opportunity” to visit the foundation at their own convenience, affording access that “would otherwise be an invitation-only experience”.
That this is possible is thanks to a new partnership between the Oetker Collection and the London-based gallery Blain Southern which represents the artist. Over the hotels’ summer season, both will display sculptures by Venet in their grounds.
As Noura Al Maashouq, an artist liaison at Blain Southern, told me, “Venet’s work was created with the South of France in mind so to place a work at the Hotel du Cap among the trees and in sight of the Mediterranean is just so fitting.” Certainly the raw rust-red of the Cor-ten steel he uses contrasts sensationally against the azure sky, ultramarine sea and deep green pines. “It’s quite a step for the hotel to place contemporary works in such traditional gardens,” she continues. “But our intention is never to be disruptive.” Rather the sculpture is to guide guests’ eyes to views they might otherwise overlook, “to highlight the spaces, not interrupt them” and prompt the public to see the landscape with what Proust called “new eyes”.
Of course there is a commercial imperative too. If you can afford to stay at Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, where weekend rates start at €1,000 (there is still some availability for June and September), rising to many times that for a suite, there’s a sporting chance you collect art. Tonks says he hopes guests will “see [Venet’s] art in the grounds, fall in love with it and buy it maybe,” and acknowledges the hotels will get a commission on sales that result from the exhibition.
The gallery stands to benefit too, of course. “We’re looking after the best interests of our artists [by] getting visibility for them,” says Al Maashouq, noting that the exhibitions opened to coincide both with the Cannes Film Festival, during which the Hotel du Cap is the A-list’s lodging of choice, and the AmfAR Gala, the American Foundation for Aids Research’s epic annual fundraiser and gathering of the glitterati (this year including Alessandra Ambrosio, Adrien Brody, Pierce Brosnan, Winnie Harlow, Grace Jones, Heidi Klum and Kristen Stewart), which took place at the hotel last month.
The Oetker Collection may have pioneered the idea of collaborating with commercial galleries, but they are no longer alone. Rosewood Hotels’ Paris outpost, “Hôtel de Crillon, A Rosewood Hotel” as it insists it is known, has just announced a new partnership with Emmanuel Perrotin, whose gallery has outposts in Paris, New York, Seoul, Hong Kong, Tokyo and, later this year, Shanghai, and has in the past staged shows at Oetker’s St Barths property, Eden Rock.
He will select works of art by artists such as Takashi Murakami, Sophie Calle and Klara Kristalova for the hotel’s three Ateliers d’Artistes suites (from €3,300 to €9,000, depending on size), located on the seventh floor under the mansard and, all with stupendous views and a terrace or balcony, among the most romantic rooms in Paris.