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  • Writer's pictureAhmed

Art at the end of the world

We live in Brittany. But quite often we don't consider it the "real" Brittany. That's a slightly wilder land at the tip of Europe, Finistère, where the earth ends. It's a three hour drive from here which, especially with a small child, isn't a journey we undertake lightly. Nevertheless, we 're always looking for antique reasons to do the trip and make a weekend of it- and at last, this happened last week!

And it was a French antique dream... Landerneau is a small town. Population about 15,000, it lies at the mouth of the Elorn River which divides the Breton provinces of Cornouaille and Léon. Don't the names already sound pre-modern, pre-Christian even? Cornouaille is cognate with Cornwall in a neighbouring island. Like its namesake it's hilly, wet, and vibrantly green. Landerneau is an agricultural town with a strong medieval centre but like many smallish towns in France, it benefits from past residents. In this case its Edouard Leclerc, founder of the Leclerc supermarket chain. Like Cartier, Maeght, Yves Rocher and Louis Vuitton, Leclerc's family established a cultural foundation after his death and, being proud of his Breton origins, chose his hometown for a location.

(photo © FHEL via Brest Terres Oceanes)

(Picture by Carole)

The building for the Fondation was the old Landerneau Capuchin Convent. Originally built in 1636, the convent fell through various owners after the revolution, including a weaver, brewery, manufacturer of algae, and a bleach manufacturer. Leclerc acquired the site originally as a store but eventually it was transformed into a space for contemporary arts and culture. This in itself is fascinating- contemporary art at the end of the world! Though when we went the weather was a bit more damp than in FHEL's stock photo above .

(Picture by Carole)

Since its founding the small gallery has made a name for itself, attracting Picasso, Chagall, Giacometti exhibitions. We chose to visit the last weekend of the Cabinet de Curiosities exhibition. Given the name of our antiques store and some of our earlier trips (notably the amazing Pitt-Rivers in Oxford), you can probably tell why we would be fascinated! Each room is designed around a theme for a typical Wunderkammer. The space is divided into 15 small cells, each with a different curatorial emphasis. Each one adopts the mode of a renaissance collector seeking to explain our world. We have our own curiosities of course and our love of religious antiques is where we started, but I seriously expected Carole to start stealing things.

Pictures all by Carole. There are clocks with automatons lent by the Uffizi Gallery. Further on, there are ironworks from the Secq des Tournelles museum. At the heart of the space is a cell of the Faculty of Medicine of Montpellier with a wax anatomical model of a woman- a dissected Venus. For any collectors of the macabre, the weird or the beautiful, it's an amazing exhibition. Coral and fossils nudge shoulders with salvaged busts of Marx and Jesus. Wax skulls with the Sacred Heart and fox taxidermy. There are too many favorites to mention but we also recommend the book of the exhibition which contains more photos from the lending collections. To cap it all, the old Convent Chapel was also opened, housing Leclerc's own collection of religious art. Oh, happy day!

Pictures all by Carole. A fantastic weekend. And to further cap it all- the best fish'n'chips I've had in a looong time at the restaurant opposite the gallery.

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