Most people visit the Loire Valley for its stunning chateaux, wonderful vineyards, historic cities, gorgeous gardens and beautiful villages. But for something different you might like to pop to the Fondation du Doute (which translates as the Fondation of Doubt) in Blois.
In the shadow of the castle that dominates this town, you can’t miss the Fondation building because it’s unlikely you’ll have ever seen a façade quite like this. And, there aren’t many places where you’ll be able to gaze at Yoko Ono’s bum – but you certainly can here!
The only place dedicated to Fluxus in Europe
A colourful building covered in 316 metal plaques bearing the works of the last 30 years of French artist Ben Vautier known simple as Ben, 82 years young this year stands out. The Fondation du Doute was opened in 2013 and is the only place in Europe dedicated to the movement known as Fluxus.
Fluxus, explains the guide at the Foundation (you mustn’t call it a museum she insists), is an art form. It began in New York when a collection of artists agreed that “museums do not have the authority to determine the value of art”. They also stated that it’s not necessary to be educated to “view and understand art”. It’s a form of art that embraces humour, music and maybe a bit of anarchy. Remember this as you wander the galleries of the Fondation because it’s really very different indeed.
A very eccentric art gallery
There’s a giant stone head reminiscent of the breakfast in Tiffany film but push your hand into this one and you’re likely to hear a grown with a distinctly sexual tone. The exhibition features a car door installation which bizarrely become an orchestra of hammering bangs – literally as forty or so car doors are clunked by hammers operated by small electric motors. A disconnected leg seems to be determined to kick a football that floats just above its reach, a rocking duck is a bit scary. It’s childish, naive, weird and crazy.
A piano next to a hay bale which bears a sign “for the piano to eat” makes most people smile. Picnics laid out complete with fag butts seem to create a lot of discussion and “whys”. This is art by madmen but it has an aim, that we all have the ability to be creative and to create art.
Take Yoko Ono’s bum. She took a photo of it which hangs on a wall here with more photos of bottoms including Andy Warhol’s. You can’t tell whose is who. “Is it art” I hear a lady ask looking at the neat row of bums and frowning. Well that’s the point in a way, art is different things to different people.
It certainly makes you think, it may make you smile. You’ll probably talk about what it might mean or if it means anything at all. If you like off the wall art you’re going to love this place.
Ben’s café on the ground floor is open to the public and is a vibrant hang out for budding artists. It’s very eccentric (think bath tubs as chairs and rude signs on the wall) but great fun and they do a terrific coffee and snacks.
If you’re not into modern art then this probably isn’t for you, but if you’re open minded, appreciate art with irony, humour and sometimes a bit of silliness you’ll going to love this place.
Check the website for Fondation du Doute in advance – it seems to be subject to quirky opening times too: www.fondationdudoute
For more information on the area see: www.bloischambord.co.uk; www.valdeloire-france.com; uk.france.fr/