Largest Collection of Radical Conceptualists ART & LANGUAGE Finds a Home in French Chateau
The extraordinary collection will be viewable under one roof for the first time.
A chateau on the banks of the River Loire in France is to be the fairy-tale, medieval setting for the largest private collection of works by the radical British conceptual artists, ART & LANGUAGE. Over 500 works from the collection of Philippe Méaille will inhabit the labyrinth of palatial reception rooms, corridors and winding staircases that comprise the Chateau de Montsoreau for the next 25 years.
Built in 1455 as a fortress—immortalised in Alexandre Dumas’s novel The Lady of Montsoreau, and recently restored as a historic monument—the chateau has been listed by the French Ministry of Culture since 1862 for its architectural heritage and belongs to the regional Department of Maine-et-Loire.
In an unprecedented move, the region, headed by Christian Gillet, President of the Department of Maine-et-Loir and local mayor Gerard Persin, is turning the chateau into a cultural center for international contemporary art in France. Apart from the ART & LANGUAGE installations, related exhibitions and activities will be staged under the curatorial direction of Jill Silverman van Coenegrachts, a former director of the Lisson Gallery in London and partner of the Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac in Paris and Salzburg.
An exhibition of ART & LANGUAGE works from the Méaille collection was recently held at MACBA, Barcelona, and the Philippe Méaille Center at Chateau Montsoreau will open provisionally in the Spring of 2016. “I have been searching Europe and America for the right setting in which to house this collection and now I have found it,” Méaille told artnet News. “We can now begin to create a stimulating program which I believe will be of interest to local residents and specialized visitors from further afield.”
It will certainly be interesting to view this challenging work in such a setting. ART & LANGUAGE, a collective founded in 1967 that comprised nearly 50 artists worldwide, including a psychedelic rock band at one point, were “the inventors of conceptual art” according to their long-term dealer, Nicholas Logsdail of the Lisson Gallery. The surviving members of Art & Language are Michael Baldwin, born 1945, and Mel Ramsden, born 1944, who were also founding members.
Their earliest works comprise texts—philosophical musings about art, its function and meaning—which they developed into lengthy index systems housed in filing cabinets that were sought after by museum curators such as Harald Szeemann who included them in his esteemed Documenta exhibition in Kassel in 1972.
From the 1980s, they branched out into paintings—paintings about landscape painting or about historical landmark paintings by Pablo Picasso, Kazimir Malevich, Jackson Pollock or Gustave Courbet. At one stage they made paintings with their mouths.
Méaille began collecting their work in 1992, when he learnt about a collection of ART & LANGUAGE in the Rothschild Bank in Zurich that could be for sale. What he found was a stack of printed certificates from 1966 with instructions to blow the texts up into wall-sized pictures or paintings. Excited by the esoteric nature of the works, Méaille bought the whole collection and decided to find more. The Chateau of Montsoreau will be first location where this extraordinary collection will be viewable under one roof.
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