Valentine Schlegel “Tu m’accompagneras à la plage?” at CRAC, Sète
For six years, Hélène Bertin has been researching the life and work of Valentine Schlegel (born in Sète in 1925). This research culminated in the publication of a catalogue as well as an exhibition presented at CAC Brétigny in 2017, both of which were critically acclaimed and well received by the public.
The exhibition at the CRAC Occitanie in Sète is a follow-up to the 2017 exhibition, and is a chance to pay tribute to an artist born and raised in Sète.
The first chapter in Brétigny assembled a diverse selection of works – including fireplaces, vases, models, a knife collection, humble objects – and made it possible for a large audience to get to know Valentine Schlegel’s range of works. The exhibition in Sète is particularly special as visitors will see Schegel’s works presented in the very territory where the artist grew up. For the first time, it is possible to situate Schegel’s practice in Sète culture and its local way of life; visitors can discover the way that the landscape, the port and fisherman inspired her and, most importantly, explore the social environment she evolved in.
Valentine Schlegel painted costumes for the first editions of Avignon festivals, she created vases, bags, cutlery, fireplaces and low reliefs, and made her living and working environment into a work of art in its own right. The exhibition encourages a horizontal and transversal approach to the conventions of art presenting a series of painted costumes, vases, plaster models of her fireplaces, as well as the artist’s knife collection.
The exhibition also shows how Valentine Schlegel belongs to a cultural transmission chain in which she received just as much from her peers and past generations as she transmitted to younger artists in terms of know-how, techniques and tools. This logic of permanent co-creation highlights the power of collective experience.
Valentine Schlegel discovered collective dynamics particularly when she started working for the first Avignon festivals from 1947 to 1951. In this context she was prop master and head stage manager, and assisted painter Léon Gischia (1903 – 1991) with the creation of costumes. A selection of watercolours and gouaches paintings and preparatory models for theater costumes will also be displayed.
Collective experience was also central to the production of the fireplaces she created for individuals between 1960 and 2000. She surrounded herself with assistants, artists and artisans with whom she worked with on-site for several months. One of them was Christian Desse, whose series of sculptures made of bone, cuttlebone and feather shafts are included in the show.
Finally, the exhibition features one of Valentine Schlegel’s close friends, Charles Biascamano – the last fisherman in Sète to practice the trolling technique – a man whose way of life, freedom and simplicity she shared. A film from the 1980s, shot by his children Patricia, Stephan and Aldo, will be on show; it documents the memory of a typical day at the beach, from the early-morning construction of the cabin at boundary marker 14, to the evening’s peïdolade, a shared dish made with the catch of the day. The family cabin has been reconstructed for the exhibition with the help of the three children.
The exhibition is designed to interweave Valentine Schlegel’s works with local objects and materials; the boat sails are presented alongside fireplace models, vases are positioned on a carpet of wild reeds, adjacent to wooden benches (whose shape is inspired by the skiffs used for fishing on the Étang de Thau), which can be used by visitors, who are thus encouraged to discover the theatre costumes displayed on the walls.
At CRAC, Sète
Until 29 September 2019