09 Juin 2010

Week-end arty on the Basque Coast

By Lauren Hasty

Photo courtesy of Espadrille par Nicole Pariès, 52 rue Gambetta, St. Jean de Luz France
If you’re looking to escape the city hustle and bustle of summer with a weekend at the beach, but you’d like to round off the farniente with a touch of culture or a visit to a major museum, go to the small Basque village of St. Jean de Luz, located near Biarritz between the Pyrenees mountains and the Atlantic ocean. Charming and quaint, this town allows you to do everything by foot, and with a direct TGV from Paris you literally step off the train, buy a pair of their famous espadrilles, grab a macaroon from the bakery Maison Adam, and walk to your hotel. This summer is a particularly interesting time to go, culturally speaking, because the village and the surrounding regions are offering and an array of interesting events.
First, you don’t want to miss the Francoise Gilot (www.francoisegilot.com) exhibition at Galerie La Nivelle. The exhibition is displaying rarely seen works from the Famous French artist, who was from 1943 to 1953 the partner of Pablo Picasso and is the mother of their children Claude and Paloma.

Totem de la chasse by Francoise Gilot,, courtesy of Galerie La Nivelle, Ciboure, France
Like other talented women in history such as Simone de Beauvoir or Camille Claudel, the work of this remarkable painter, who studied at the Julian Academy with Jean Souverbie and in the Parisian workshop of the Hungarian great Endre Rozsda, often falls into the shadows of her better known companion. Her work, profound and colorful, reflects the talent of an artist considered from 1950 to be a major feminine player from the school of Paris, represented by the legendary Parisian art dealer Daniel-Henri Kahnweiler, and regularly rubbed elbows Matisse, Cocteau, Sonia Delaunay and Nicolas de Stael.
No stranger to controversy, during WWII, the intrepid artist boldly lashed out against the German occupation by portraying such symbolic references as a butchered rooster (the symbol of France), to the point of being considered a “threat” and therefore obliged to “check in” daily at the police station for several months.
This exhibition kicks off the grand opening of the Modern art gallery which is located in Ciboure, just a across the port from its sister gallery, Eraünsia, in Saint Jean de Luz. The exhibition displays the most recent works (1981-2007) from the Femme Fleur, as she was lovingly referred to by Picasso, a collection of approximately twenty works (oil paintings, gouaches and monotype) and lasts until July 31st.
Second, this year marks the 350th anniversary of the marriage of Louis XIV and Marie-Thérèse of Austria, Infante of Spain. This royal wedding was the finalization of the Traité des Pyrénées, which ended the Franco – Spanish war, and this summer from 16th of May until the 13th of June there are concerts, conferences, expositions, and performances commemorating this special date*. From the outside, the church where the ceremony was performed in 1660 isn’t the majestic cathedral one might imagine, but the inside is elaborately decorated with colorful frescos and has an exquisite statue of La Pieta which dates from the XV century. If you’re lucky enough to attend Sunday morning mass, you’ll hear the chants basques, beautifully moving hymns sung in the Basque language during the service.

Anish Kapoor, Yellow, 1999, Courtesy the artist and Lisson Gallery, London, Photo: Erika Ede © FMGB Guggenheim Bilbao Museoa, 2010, Installation: Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, 2010
If your open to a road trip, pop-in a cd from the Basque group The Gipsy Kings and hop over Spanish border, which is only an hour away. You’ll find the historical village of Guernica, so unforgettably portrayed by Picasso in the painting named in the town’s honor, and the renowned Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao**, designed by Frank O. Gehry, which has excellent selection of summer exhibitions on display from Anish Kapoor, Henri Rousseau and Robert Rauschenberg.
Bon Voyage or as they say in Basque Seguru Bidaia !
*For more info, please consult the website http://louis-xiv-350-ans-apres.jimdo.com/
** For exhibition dates and museum hours, please consult the website http://www.guggenheim-bilbao.es

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Week-end arty on the Basque Coast